Embracing friendship and SISTERhood

Dec. 18, 2003, midnight | By Sreela Namboodiri | 20 years, 5 months ago

Club empowers Lady Blazers with solidarity and loving compassion

At the end of seventh period every other Wednesday, girls of all races and grades pile into room 311, recognizing familiar faces, taking their seats and chatting busily. After five minutes the room quiets down, and the girls shift their attention to the words on the board in front of them. "I pledge to be a positive asset to
SISTERS," recites a chorus of over 50 voices, "I am a SISTER, always and forever."

Blair's SISTERS (Self Image, Strength, Tenacity, Empathy, Responsibility and Success) is one of several SISTERS organizations in schools around Montgomery County and the Washington, D.C., area dedicated to promoting a positive self image for high-school and middle-school girls. This student-run group teaches its members independence, self-respect and strength to encourage success for females in today's society.

Building friendships

On Nov. 19, egg rolls, noodles, exotic fruits and other ethnic foods adorn a table in a corner of the SAC. The meeting's theme is "Melting Pot," where SISTERS bring their favorite food from their native country.
"My high point [of the week] is: getting an A in math, which is my hard subject," says junior Elisha Chambers, at the beginning of the meeting. A collective "yaaaay" fills the small corner in the SAC. Lowering her voice,

Chambers continues, "My low point [of the week] is: my grandmother is sick." A sympathetic "awwww" follows from the 23 girls surrounding three tables.

The high-point/low-point activity is part of the SISTERS' bonding and friendship building. "We get everyone to interact with each other instead of having cliques at meetings," says senior Martha Gould.

Respect and confidentiality are very important in SISTERS. "It's something like a friends for life kind of thing," says senior Donna-Lee Baker, "You can basically talk about anything, and you know it won't go beyond those walls."

Baker says these bonding experiences on SISTERS have made her more open-minded about different ideas and personalities. "There were some girls I didn't like who were on SISTERS. But after we had a couple of discussions in class, I realized that we had a lot in common," says Baker.

A positive self image

Sophomore Mayra Zelaya pops a fruit slice into her mouth near the end of the Melting Pot. Reading the "Qualities of the mate that I marry" section on the "Ideal Marriage" paper in front of her, she considers the bulleted options. She finally decides on the essential quality of her future husband: "He has to be a good listener."

The SISTERS are discussing traits they would like to see in their future husbands to help them establish their own identities.

During meetings, SISTERS hold discussions of different aspects of life that can affect them or those around them. "We talk about issues like sex, violence, abuse, parental neglect, pregnancy, school and relationships," says Gould. "We want to help each other have a better high-school career."

At the conclusion of the Melting Pot, co-sponsor and math teacher Gezell Montague sums up the purpose of the day's meeting. "I hope what you get out of this is seeing the importance of being independent before you get married," she says. "As women, we should be empowered to be responsible and independent, and we should always be in a position to take care of ourselves."

Freshman Renee Richardson nods her head in agreement. "My mom always says, ‘Make sure you have yourself together before you jump into a relationship.'"

Lending a helping hand

SISTERS also participate in community-service activities. On Dec. 3, 17 SISTERS members visited St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home to plan fundraisers and volunteer opportunities at the center.
SISTERS also helps with Little SISTERS in local middle schools.

At the end of the year, all SISTERS organizations in the area, including those from Kennedy and Einstein high schools, come together for a large picnic. "We talk about what we learned and what we can do for next year," says Gould. "Then we have a mini talent show where everybody dances. It's a lot of fun."

Gould says SISTERS has shaped her since she was a freshman. "In ninth grade, nobody could tell me what I was going to do. I wouldn't listen to anybody," she recalls. "But now, I've learned to become more open-minded and tolerant about other people's opinions."

Reflecting on her three years as a member, Gould has only positive things to say about SISTERS. "It has helped me find myself, my self image and how to strengthen it," she says. "SISTERS has taught me about having kindness, having love in your heart."

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Sreela Namboodiri. Sreela, who is now a SENIOR, especially enjoys walking around with her feet, dancing in front of her mirror to techno, taking cold showers and playing with her imaginary bulldog, Big Mac. She hopes to one day learn how to play guitar correctly, start a … More »

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