Community Voices - Ann Cooper Albright

AnnCooperAlbrightAnn Cooper Albright started Girls in Motion 12 years ago when she saw a confidence gap growing between middle school boys and girls.

An Oberlin College Experimental course (Exco) now helps Oberlin College students train other students to be mentors who run the Girls and Boys in Motion program in the middle school.  

Q: “So can you briefly describe girls in motion started and the goals and motivations behind it?”

A: “Alright so when I started girls in motion, 12 years ago, I was a soccer coach for a co-ed team that was in the middle school and I started to see a moment where the girls that were kind of physically fierce and after a year or two ago they started acting goofy and silly and backing away from the ball when it came near them... There was a lot of information and research around what they called the confidence gap. They start out really confident and doing well, and they start to kind of pull back. I wanted to create a program that would focus physically on getting the girls to stay, and not so much even in sports, so at a certain point I noticed that it was about soccer, but then it really wasn't about soccer for me.

It was about kind of physical presence in the world and the connection between physical and intellectual presence. They learned how to use their weight to realize their weight, to mobilize their weight, take up space, learn how to support one another, learn how to be involved in something, create movement, perform in public... but all of that would be ways to practice a sense of presence and confidence and physical fierceness that would help combat or intervene in this kind of confidence gap.”

Q: “Did you have a vision of a connection between the college dance program and the community?”

A: “With working in the middle school yeah in the sense that I'm using mentors, but the mentors are all not necessarily from the dance department so the mentors can come from anywhere. I also teach a course called moving into community that is a service based learning course where we kind of theoretically have different projects and learn history but then we also do a project in the community. So I would say it's migrated from the feminist and gender studies into dance. The mentor leader now is not a dance major at all - she's an education major. It's not a super direct dance connection, it's more movement.

Q: “How do you see the connection between the boys and girls that dance and mentors? Are they like very close, do they keep up after the program?”

A: “I would say there are many mentors who become very committed to the program and continue to do it over 4 years  or two years a lot commit or stick with it for a while. Do they see them? You know I would say I think that they continue to see like if they see them the students they recognize them. A lot of mentors that may not have the time to be a mentor this semester will show up to the performance and when they show up to the performance the students come up and are like, ‘Yay, where aren’t you doing it this semester?’, that kind of stuff.

Q: “How do you choose that mentors that work with the kids?”

A: “There's a program of mentors and mentor leaders and they teach an Exco class so they actually train the mentors through in Exco class. I come into that class and am in contact with the mentors but the training happens student-to-student for the most part.”

Q: “Is there something very unique about the Oberlin girls in motion?”

A: “What makes the Oberlin girls in motion unique is that there's not a prescribed formula. We work with whatever the students from a certain class bring us. I don't have a curriculum, a syllabus, a frame that is the way it is and that's what they implement.

What I think makes it useful for the college students who become mentors is that you're working with what happens when something doesn't work out. How do you adapt, how do you adjust, how do you become... like all the skills that are mobile skills as opposed to like this is the way it's supposed to be done because when you're working with the kids and the different the Boys and Girls Club Near Langston and Prospect you never know what you're going to get when you walk in there so you have to be available to shift, I mean they make plans I always make extensive written plans before I teach a class but I'm also really open to the fact that those plans could shift depending on what the class is bringing me.”

Q: “Do you see little ties between the college in the community when you see the kids come up and say oh why aren't you doing the semester do you see some connection…”

A: “That person to the right [pointing at a picture on the wall of her office] is one of the first girls from the first year of girls in motion and she is a senior now at Oberlin College and I see and, I have hours worth of anecdotes, I could be shopping at Best Buy and the guy behind behind the register says you're from Oberlin and he says my daughter does girls in motion she loves it.

I'll have one mentor tell me that one of the students from Langston told her we have this thing called the sun salutations the girls in motion since, and she was angry at her parents or something like that and instead of just screaming and yelling she went up to her room and did the girls in motion sun salutation so like there are lots of stories where we've made a difference.

Whether we've made like an actual quantifiable difference in the community, who knows? But it's a program that's lasted and I think that's really important.”

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Guest March 15, 2017

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