ROX empowers girls with the help of guest speaker, Amanda Berry

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ROX empowers girls with the help of guest speaker, Amanda Berry

Bree Collier and Tatiyana Harris

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“My main message for teenage girls is to always be cautious; always trust your gut.”

On April 9, kidnapping survivor Amanda Berry spoke at Mayfield Middle School to the members of ROX (Ruling Our eXperiences), a group that focuses on the education and empowerment of girls.

Amanda Berry was kidnapped in 2003 at the age of sixteen and spent ten years held captive in the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro until she escaped in 2013 with her six-year-old daughter.  Berry contacted the police, who then rescued two more women from Castro’s home.

Ms. Berry spoke to the ROX group about her experiences in an effort to raise awareness. Her goal, she told The Wildcat Voice staff, is to “help empower them and keep them safe by sharing my story.”  She explained the importance of girls “growing up cautious in a sometimes scary world.”

Ms. Berry added, “I believe they need to know that this really happens; it’s not a scare tactic of their parents. And I believe if they hear my story maybe they will not be so trustworthy.”

Vasana Webel, one of the students who heard Ms. Berry speak, said, “The conversation was inspiring because she could talk about what she went through.” Another student, Nikki Kolure, said, “The meeting showed me what could happen and what to do in those types of situations.”  Jessica Jilek noted, “The meeting showed me to be aware of my surroundings.”

Mrs. Borden, a guidance counselor and the ROX adviser, found Ms. Berry’s message powerful.  She said it not only made her realize that people should appreciate their lives but also that everyone should be safe and aware at all times. She also said Berry’s story is “inspiring and heartbreaking” and that she is “amazed how she took her pain and made people aware.”

The goal of the ROX organization is to research, develop, and implement programming that helps girls develop social, personal, and academic skills to effectively navigate the challenges of adolescence.  One of the important topics covered is self-defense–in both verbal and physical conflicts.

Mrs. Borden started the club at MMS. “I’ve been doing it for 10 years,” she said. As she’s moved between schools, she’s implemented a ROX group at each one.

ROX has a guest speaker each year. This year, one of the girl’s moms, an attorney, came in to talk to the girls about safety and being aware of one’s surroundings. She brought with her Amanda Berry.

“My experience at Mayfield Middle School was an absolute blessing and so amazing!” said Berry.  “I was so happy to be a part of such a special day for them..seeing the girls faces and knowing they were receiving something special.”  Her message to all teenage girls is to love themselves and to be cautious, always.  “Please let your parents know your location; you’ll be glad you did. Please help me make your world a little safer for us girls! We deserve it!”

always be cautious; always trust your gut”

— Amanda Berry

During her visit, Ms. Berry asked MMS to support her in raising awareness of missing children. May is Missing Children’s month, so ROX and Student Council have joined the “Rock One Sock” campaign, which is sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).  The concept behind “Rock One Sock” is that when a sock goes missing in the laundry, there is always hope to find it. Mrs. Borden explains, “Their campaign leverages that same sense of hope for finding missing kids.”

For the month of May, socks will hang outside of both cafeterias. “Each sock represents a child that is currently missing in Ohio,” explained Mrs. Borden.  Quick facts and tips from the NCMEC will also be shared by students during morning announcements.

Staff and students can show support by participating in the activities on Friday, May 4: wearing one sock to raise awareness of missing children, purchasing a doughnut Friday morning, and donating money to attend a staff vs. student basketball game.