Student led ASAs (After School Activities) are a great opportunity for students to practice their leadership skills. In a student led ASA, teacher supervisors offer guidance to help expand students’ knowledge by sharing resources and making suggestions. However, student leaders create their own mission, set goals, and lead the discussion groups.
BASIS International School Park Lane Harbour student leaders Sally S., Stephanie M., and Sanny Z. (all Grade 11) care deeply about students who feel inadequate or lack self-esteem. So, they created an ASA called BeYOUtiful. Since its inception, BeYOUtiful has presented research to students on body shame and self-image, and also collaborated with other academic groups to produce a fashion show focused on wearable art and women’s self-empowerment.
Student leaders and faculty shared with us about their vision, and the events and research they have shared with the school community so far.
From Sheilah Grace, Film Studies and Visual Arts Teacher, Head of Fine Arts Department:
Teaching and learning can happen when we least expect it…
One day in my study hall for Grade 11, I overheard some girls talking about the many friends they know who struggle with low self-esteem. They sounded so sincere and heartfelt about promoting healthy self-image, respect for other genders, and ending body shaming that I volunteered resources I had collected regarding the same topics. Next thing I knew they asked me to sponsor their student-led club.
This is the kind of teachable moment I live for. The opportunity to facilitate learning that is truly transformative–that goes beyond the classroom and is about what in my opinion matters most–teaching empathy. It is true. I am an Arts specialist. What do the Arts have to do with promoting healthy acceptance of oneself and others you may ask?
Art and design are all around us. For instance, how does social media and the images our young people are subjected to 24-7 affect their sense of self? If we can help students learn to analyze, decode, and even create their own images instead of just consume, they will empowered to make positive change.
These four young women in my study hall understood this. They wanted their first campaign: “No Body Shame” to specifically address how social media is like a mirror that distorts our sense of self–many times sending us false messages of what is considered to be a beautiful person.
Now what started as a student-led club has spread to a much larger initiative. It is truly invigorating collaborating with the entire Arts team: Drama, Band, Choir, Film, and Visual Arts. With the student leaders of the BeYOUtiful ASA together we produced OPHELIA, a multi-arts extravaganza of wearable art, promoting diversity, and positive self-image.
The support we’ve been given by parents and administrative leaders has encouraged us to move forward despite the challenges. I am so grateful to be part of a dynamic learning community that knows and values the importance of teaching our young people to care deeply–to empathize with others.
From BeYOUtiful Co-Founder Sally S., Grade 11:
As maturing teenagers, my friends and I found that keeping a positive image about ourselves and having a clear self-identity is important for us to grow up with confidence and have a positive attitude toward our life. Therefore, we started the BeYOUtiful ASA in order to help students have good self-esteem and be more confident about themselves. Moreover, we also intend to help our school community become a more welcoming and emotionally safe space for all kinds of students, no matter how different they feel they are. For example, for our next project, we produced a fashion show that focused on the issue of gender inequality.
First BeYOUtiful Presentation
In early March 2021, BeYOUtiful gave a presentation on body shame for the entire Middle School and set a great example of students turning compassion into action!
The Middle School students were quite receptive to their presentation. Research shows that introducing concepts that promote healthy attitudes towards body type and gender have lasting positive effects into adulthood, and we are proud to see our older students mentoring younger students in a meaningful and positive way.
Here is an excerpt from their research:
Student Leaders Q&A with Ms. Sheilah Grace, Faculty Supervisor
Why did BeYOUtiful want to give a presentation on body shame to middle school students?
We gave the presentation on body shame to middle school students because we want to help them have a positive body image about themselves and so they can love themselves and feel more confidence. We realized that social media tends to convey unrealistic perfect body image, which can lead to anxiety and body shame. Therefore, we wanted to give a speech about this to help students become more aware of these issues. We hope we can encourage these students to have a positive attitude about themselves, each other, and their bodies.
– Sally S.
How did you feel about presenting to the younger students?
I felt very excited because this was my first speech at the lower grade assembly. I was impressed by their passion and enthusiasm, and I enjoyed the time that I spent with them. After our presentation, Mr. Baker told us that in PE class, he heard a group of students say, “No body shame” to prevent a student who tried to make fun of a classmate’s body. We felt so proud when we heard this because it showed that students learned how serious body shaming is from our presentation. We really hope that these younger kids can be confident and accept the diversity of humanity.
– Stephanie Ma., Grade 11
I like being part of the BeYOUtiful ASA. What we are creating together is important, interesting, and fun. I am excited to help with the fashion show. I think we can share even more information in a creative way.
– Zoe H., Grade 7
From Kelly Ke, School Counselor
It is always impactful when students share important and helpful information with each other regarding their daily social and emotional issues. I was very impressed with the accuracy of their information and their caring attitude towards their peers. I want to be a supportive friend in BeYOUtiful and that is why I went to their presentation and ASA. Knowing how much students like BeYOUtiful and how much they care about other students makes me feel very happy!
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