The University of La Verne’s core values – diversity and inclusively, community and civic engagement – are upheld by the members of Shades of Essence and the Black Student Union as the women of both clubs serve as mentors at Pomona High School for The Beautiful Butterfly Network, an afterschool group for high school girls.
LaShonne Mitchell, Pomona High School English and drama teacher, started The Beautiful Butterfly Network two years ago when she saw the need for compassion and sisterhood among the girls at the school.
Her focus for the program is to build up the next generation of women and form a sisterhood within the group.
“I think that it’s important for young women to get along,” Mitchell said.
“I want the girls to learn how to nurture a feminine spirit.”
Both Shades of Essence and BSU wanted to somehow get involved with high school students, and the opportunity opened at Pomona High School for the women of both clubs to mentor these girls.
They have been attending the program meetings every at 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday since March.
“We want to give them the advice and guidance they wouldn’t find in their environment now,” said Breana White, senior English major and Shades of Essence president. “We want to prepare them for what college is like in general and especially for a young female.”
Janice Barbee, Pomona High School English and AVID teacher, had many accolades for the program and the work that ULV mentors do.
Barbee said that the girls are happy to attend The Beautiful Butterfly Network, and they trust each other.
“The awesome partnership University of La Verne has with Pomona High School is great,” Barbee said. “The relationship is pivotal and instrumental, and this is bound to be influential in their lives.”
“In spite of what (the girls) don’t have, they are consciously willing themselves out of their situation and have goals for their lives,” Barbee said.
“They are taking advantage of every opportunity they have at Pomona High School.”
During each meeting, The Beautiful Butterfly Network discusses a previously decided topic, which ranges from body image to cheating, but his week’s was on friendship.
They began by journaling the “recipe for friendship,” and then discussed after.
Mitchell and ULV mentors prompted the girls with questions like, “Do you think you have more issues with same-sex friends or opposite-sex friends?”
“Butterfly helped me open up more,” said Angelena Mendoza, Pomona High School freshman. “I’ve always had a lot of girlfriends, but this is more like a sisterhood. We’ve really had a bond together and can be honest. Everyone here is trustworthy.”
“I’ve never been really close with girls before, so when I entered Butterfly, it opened me to older girls that are like sisters,” Rose Populo, Pomona High School freshman, said.
The program has opened several shy girls like Tatiana Moore, Pomona High School junior, and Olga Gudino, Pomona High School freshman, to new friendships that have blossomed into sister-like relationships.
All of the girls feel comfortable with Mitchell, the ULV mentors and their peers to talk about everything, with no topic limitations.
“My favorite part, I think, is just seeing their personalities shine and them feeling comfortable with us at this point,” White said.
During the group discussion, the girls and mentors were able to relate to each other by sharing stories of friendship triumphs and failures in a light and conversational way. Mitchell said that there have been times, however, that the entire group has cried over a situation.
“I thought it was a good opportunity to help … and the high school that I went to was similar,” Alexceoanna Campo, sophomore biology major and Shades of Essence historian, said. “I know how issues in schools like this can be, and hopefully I can help them in some way.”
“I love getting to know them on another level, their personalities, getting to help, and getting to laugh, talk and cry,” Mitchell said.
“I’m just happy to connect with them in this way.”
This after school program has created a bond and sisterhood filled with trust and love within a group of high school girls that may never have had these relationships otherwise.
And they make one thing clear, what’s said in butterfly stays in butterfly.
Hayley Hulin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.