In the social media age, anxiety, depression and social pressures experienced by girls seem to be on the rise, but a new organization is empowering young women to love and accept themselves above all else.
One of the mottos of the Dragonfly Movement is: find your tribe and love them hard. The program is an outlet to help young women become comfortable with themselves at a young age, while giving them the tools to cope better now and later in life.
When launching the Dragonfly Movement over a year ago, founder Jules Feuerheerdt chose the dragonfly to represent transformational change.
"I really wanted the program to be edgy and cool and the dragonfly represented that to me," she said.
Right now, one in five children between the ages of 13 and 18 have or will have a serious mental illness, studies show. Sports, grades, social media; all of it pile up on this generation of future women, with potentially life-altering consequences.
Feuerheerdt believes a girl's relationship with herself is critical to navigating a healthy longterm path.
"That relationship will impact every decision that you make, from the people that you choose to hang out with, to how you choose to spend your weekend, to who you date, to what food you put into your mouth," she said. "It all comes down to what kind of friend you are being to yourself."
During sessions hosted by the Dragonfly Movement, girls talk, share, ask questions, laugh and cry in a room filled with bean bag chairs, candles and pillows. It's a safe, bright, happy environment where they can share their ups and downs, the good and the bad, with no topic considered taboo.
"I have a Ph.D. in life and I've been a woman for 47 years," Feuerheerdt said. "It's through my own journey, falling down and getting back up that has made me so passionate about giving girls self awareness at a much younger age."
For parents like Carey Carlock, who also runs a mental health hospital in Forest Park, she recognizes the importance of her teenage daughter becoming a Dragonfly Girl.
"One of the reasons I was drawn to Dragonfly Girls is it's communication building, self-esteem building and prevention," Carlock said. "These are young girls still developing emotionally, physically, spiritually, psychologically... They need a rest from it. They also need a place they can talk about it."
Girls who went through the program last year say it was more than helpful. The judge-free zone moved surprisingly fast and was fun.
"The group really helped me try to go over and come over my inner bully, and overcome that little voice that everybody has," 15-year-old Olyvea Yambrovich said.
During the program's three six-hour sessions, days one and two are spent figuring out who you are, while day three is all about strengthening sisterhood. So when you move through life, you never have to do it alone.
"We talk about find your tribe and love them hard and that's that group of girls that you can turn to, be. Yourself, celebrate you for who you are," Feuerheerdt said.
the program is three- 6 hour sessions spread out over 6 months or so. 10-25 girls sign up at a time. It costs $250 a day.
The Dragonfly movement started in Oak Park, but has expanded to Chicago and other suburbs, and recently launched in southern California.