REbeL: New club promotes positive self-image

Kelly Cordingley, Editor in Chief

From Hollywood to local malls, images of size 0 models tell young girls how they should look. Collar bones jutting out, every rib traceable, faces gaunt — certainly the way ‘everyone else looks’. Guys are bombarded with the idea they should be big and buff. They see the images of professional athletes with bulging arms and commercials for supplements to build muscle mass quickly.
These stereotypes are the ones a new group at Blue Valley plans to rebel against.
REbeL was originally started by psychologist Dr. Laura Eickman and Blue Valley Northwest students. Eickman said she got the idea for the club because she realized more and more of her clients were struggling with how they felt about themselves.
“I met with high school students, and most of their concerns were about fitting in and their image,” Eickman said. “None were truly confident.”
She said she was able to understand where the students were coming from.
“I know what it’s like being a female in our culture, feeling like I look good enough,” Eickman said. “I know very few women who like their bodies.”
When BV’s school psychologist Julie Seitter found out the program was expanding, she said she jumped at the opportunity to bring it here.
“It sounds cheesy, but we believe everyone is beautiful,” Seitter said. “The media says beauty equals skinny, but really, beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.”
REbeL is a peer education group, meaning the students are the ones doing the teaching.
“The girls in the club are such a nice, diverse group,” she said. “They talk about the obsession in high school to be skinny, and the idea that if you’re not skinny, you’re not worthy. They’re passionate about changing opinions about what is beautiful.”
Seitter said the information found on the Internet about weight loss or body image can be destructive.
“There’s so much dangerous information online about dieting or steroids for that ‘perfect body,’” Seitter said. “A lot of what girls are doing today is dangerous, unnecessary and unhealthy.”
At the end of last year, students filled out an application to become a club member, and sponsors went through them. If they were accepted, the members went through a day of training before this school year. The club only accepts applications once at the end of each school year.
Prairie Star Middle School participated in a pilot program of REbeL last year, which allowed many incoming freshmen to participate in the club their first year at BV.
“There were many that loved it and wanted to be involved in it here,” Seitter said. “It’s such a great, positive message. Girls can be so vicious sometimes, it’s like, ‘Are we really so jealous that we can’t acknowledge each other’s gifts?’”
REbeL member senior Jennifer Schweiger said she joined the club to help high school girls, especially underclassmen, with how they view themselves.
“I feel like freshman year, there was the most pressure [to look perfect],” Schweiger said. “We want to help them deal with that.”
Seitter said the club will do surprise activities, both in and out of school this year.
“We want it to be a surprise because it’s usually the best way to get someone’s attention,” she said. “Be looking for great messages throughout the year.”
Seitter said the main idea of this club is to get out a positive message.
“We want to generate discussion, and I think it will, especially among the girls,” she said. “The main idea is to just be yourself.”
Although the club is all girls currently, it is aimed and both genders, and boys are encouraged to join.
“The goal is to empower individuals to feel better about themselves,” Eickman said. “It isn’t just for girls, but guys too.”
Even though the REbeL program is local, leader senior Oksana Spindler said every teenager can benefit from the message.
“I think every teen in the world has felt they look different than they should,” she said. “They think they should change for society, but they’re beautiful the way there are. They shouldn’t have to change.”