BEAUMONT — Schools in Southeast Texas have found an innovative way to help kids improve their self-esteem. Educators have started painting school bathrooms with messages of positivity. You could call it "Stalls of Reason."
71% of girls between the ages of 13 and 17 feel their appearance does not measure up, including not feeling pretty enough, thin enough, or stylish and trendy enough. That’s according to a 2016 study by the dove self-esteem fund.
The stalls of reason program tries to combat adversity with positivity by showing that kindness can change everything.
Counselor Candace Gore at Lumberton Middle School found a way to uplift students. "They don't like the way that they look or they aren't the right size. All of these things are things everyone struggles with so of course our students struggle with those things too," Mrs. Gore said.
Even a bathroom stall can feel like a refuge when you're in middle school having a difficult day. Words of hope and encouragement are the last thing you'd expect to see plastered on the wall. Schools all over are spreading kindness by putting little reminders in the least likely of places.
Hailey Canter is an 8th grader at Lumberton Middle School. She said it’s hard growing up in today’s society. “Teenage girls will talk about you no matter what. They always have something to say. They are either jealous or they just don't like you,” Hailey said.
7th grader Bailey Schroder says she try to be the best version of herself everyday but unrealistic expectations make it difficult. "You’re pressured to be perfect and have a lot of friends and always have good grades," Bailey said.
Mrs. Gore said that social media and T.V. set unrealistic expectations for kids today. "You know those middle school ears are very difficult for our kids,” Mrs. Gore said. “We want to try to bridge that gap."
With paint, a brush, a stencil, and a little time, parents and administrators have transformed the bathrooms into safe spaces.
"There's a variety of quotes,” Mrs. Gore said. “And we just want our kids if they are having a rough day they can go in and see that you are beautiful or today's going to be a great day. Be the best version of yourself or even things like be kind.”
A variety of words to promote positive self-esteem and promote kindness throughout the campus. The result was a colorful, creative and uplifting bathroom where girls can find joy in the daily grind.
This trend can also be found at Groves Middle School. Kelsey Espinosa Thibodeaux, art teacher at GMS, painted not only their girls bathrooms but also the boys.
Seven in ten girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way. This includes their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family.
Pearl Jessie, licensed professional therapist and owner of pearls of wisdom counseling in Beaumont, says society has placed an impossible emphasis on looks. “Too much importance is placed on outside appearance not enough emphasis is placed on inward and internal and building that up and that is where the problem comes in at,” Mrs. Pearl said.
Mrs. Pearl whole-heartedly believes in what these school districts are doing. She calls it positive affirmation. “It starts your day off,” Mrs. Pearl said. “It's your motivation. It’s your encourager. You are your biggest encourager. You are your biggest critic."
She says it’s a practice she uses on clients who come in with low self-esteem. “So if you start off your day and you have positive affirmation facing you, meeting you and greeting you in the morning... when you meet opposition or when you see things that tell you opposite. You’re already prepared."
Back at Lumberton middle school, Mrs. Gore says the response to the inspirational quotes, has been positive. "It makes me feel good. It uplifts me and other people because you never know what kind of day someone is having and going in their might make them a lot happier,” Bailey said.
It’s a reminder of the good that students can accomplish.
Hailey agrees it has a positive influence on all who enter. “One time I went in there and I was just really sad and I went in there and just saw a quote and it just made me feel better about myself,” Hailey said.
Just simple sayings. Pieces of positivity to heal hearts and inspire teens to be better.
"That’s one of the reasons I became a counselor was not only for girls but also our young men, just to make them feel worth it. Make them feel important,” Mrs. Gore said.