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Nonprofit helps girls find their inner beauty

Poulsbo-area nonprofit coming together to build esteem in young girls.

POULSBO — A new nonprofit organization in Poulsbo is gearing up to build positive self images for 8-12 year old girls in the area. Our Beauty Within, started by The Dance Within’s Claudine McCormick, is well on its way to planting in preteens the healthy body and mind images missing from much of mainstream media.

In the works are a portable program available for area schools, clubs and troops, a springtime Fit from Within class, summer camps and an event hosted by Bainbridge Island author and coach Jennifer Louden. But first the group is focusing on raising funds and building a team of women and men vested in encouraging confident, happy young women.

“Our Beauty Within is a phenomenal program,” said board member Amanda McNeil, 26.

“When I first heard about it I started asking other women that I knew if they had the same problems growing up that I did,” she said, listing self-esteem and friendships as things often difficult during adolescence. “Every woman that I’ve spoken to has had the same problems. No one ever talks about those. Here’s this organization that’s going to stop this vicious cycle that we’ve all gone through. These girls are going to grow up having a completely different sense of self than we all did.”

She said workshops and after-school activities will be geared to empower girls.

“We’re slowly starting to get some recognition in the community about how this is something that we all need to be able to do,” she said.

McCormick began Our Beauty Within after noticing the growing trend of low self-esteem in young women. She’s compiled statistics focusing on the issue, and is arming herself and fellow board members to begin turning the trend around.

She said eventually the target demographic is one she’d like to expand, though to start with the group will focus on 8-12 year olds.

“They (young girls) start to have a lot of peer pressure at that point to be a certain way,” she said. “I feel that if a girl feels good about herself, feels confident, she’ll make good decisions.”

Girls and their parents can begin looking for flyers and posters on Our Beauty Within in September; before then those interested in contributing to the cause are encouraged to contact McCormick. She’d like to incorporate the knowledge of professionals who work with young women, including nurses, doctors and counselors.

She knows each woman has her own story of navigating adolescent years, and hopes some come forward to donate time or money to making a change.

“Don’t you wish this was around when you were a girl?” she said.

Our Beauty Within Vice President Robbie Wright said her concern lies with the persuasive body image stereotypes promoted in Hollywood, and wants to allow girls to build themselves up within a safe environment.

“I just love strong, independent women and I want to see both my daughters grow up to be that way — go out there and conquer the world as women,” she said.

Eight- to 12-year olds are at a particularly sponge-like age, so the timing is ripe to fill them in on healthy information, as well as help them to understand the commonalities they share with one another.

“It’s building a community to help strengthen that personal self confidence,” she said. “I think it’s a good cause to get these girls into.”

For information on Our Beauty Within, to donate or to become involved, visit www.ourbeautywithin.org.

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