Program cultivates young ladies

Rosebuds, at two Aberdeen elementary schools, encourages good character by teaching hygiene, manners and communication and introducing pupils to cultural events.

April 24, 2005|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Rosebuds are blossoming in Harford County.

The buds aren't blooming on bushes, but rather at Hall's Cross Roads and George D. Lisby elementary schools in Aberdeen. The buds aren't plants; they're fourth- and fifth-grade girls picked to participate in the pilot character and etiquette program called "Rosebuds."

Connie Woodson and Obette Jamison, parent-child advocates for the Harford County Public Schools Achievement Gap program, planted the seed for Rosebuds.

The title, Woodson said, was picked because the growth of a rose is a metaphor often used to describe a girl's life. Woodson said she and Jamison wanted to see the girls bloom to their fullest potential.

"Last year we were working with kids and noticed some of our girls lacked manners and had low self-esteem," Woodson said. "We went to the principals and asked if we could start a program to develop character and teach girls how to act like young ladies. They were very supportive of the idea."

Woodson said some girls were recommended as peer role models and others were chosen because of socioeconomic and academic difficulties. Participation was voluntary, and all but one girl recommended for the group joined the program.

The group meets twice a week for a half-hour. The girls have learned about personal hygiene, communication with peers and adults, behavior, etiquette in social settings and the appropriate way to meet and greet people.

"The purpose of Rosebuds is to get these girls out of this community and teach them how to act in social settings," Jamison said.

The girls jumped at the opportunity to try something new.

Ashley Hamlin, 11, said she joined because her teachers told her she had the potential to do more.

"Rosebuds changed me," she said. "I was having lots of problems with attitude and work. Being in Rosebuds helped me to change my appearance from bad to good. My behavior is better too. Before, I was a little bad. Really, I was a lot bad. I was disrespectful and I didn't listen. Now I respect people and I act the right way. I've worked hard to change my life, and Rosebuds helped me."

Ashlee Newkirk, 11, joined Rosebuds because she wanted to learn good manners.

"We are learning how to eat right," she said. "We put our napkins in the collars of our shirts so we don't get dirty. We never put our elbows on the table. We learned that you wrap a napkin around the knife and fork. We have a plate, cup and a little plate under the cup. We're learning how to use them."

Carrie Jackson, 10, joined because her mother encouraged her participation.

"My mom doesn't have time to teach me the things I learn in Rosebuds," Carrie said. "I'm learning important things like hygiene and keeping clean. We wrote letters to the stinky girl's sister [a fictional girl] and told her she needs to teach her sister how to take care of herself and stay clean so people won't make fun of her. We're learning not to say things like `yeah, y'all.' It's `yes, ma'am,' or `no, ma'am.'"

Alice Crue, principal at George D. Lisby, said the program is a wonderful way to teach the girls how to act in situations they haven't been exposed to.

The Rosebuds attended a performance of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and visited the Walters Art Museum.

One Rosebud said the symphony taught her about pride and respect.

"I knew when I went into the symphony and sat down that I wouldn't want to miss it," said Tiara Hall, 11. "I sat back and listened respectfully. I worked hard to get there, and I wanted to enjoy it. And I did. I didn't know all those instruments could make that much beautiful music."

According to Woodson, some parents are going through Rosebuds with their children.

"One dad went on the trip," Woodson said. "It had been this gentleman's dream to go to hear the symphony. Because of his socioeconomic status, he had never been able to go. After the trip, he wrote a lovely letter about the experience."

Dejonay Stewart, 10, said the art museum was the highlight of the trip.

"The museum had so many things to see, but we couldn't touch them. My favorite thing was a vase with stone flowers, carved around real flowers," Dejonay said. "It was peach-colored and so pretty."

Woodson said she has seen improvement in academics and behavior.

The fifth-graders will continue the program in middle school.

"The girls will do Rose Blossoms at the middle school," Woodson said. "They'll do Roses at the high school level if it's allowed. We'll build on what the girls learn each year."

Mike Seymour, supervisor of equity and culture diversity for Harford schools, called the program "fantastic."

"Rosebuds fills a void in the lives of some of the students," Seymour said. "It's the extra ingredient that makes the dish so much better."

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