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home : features : catholic schools

2/8/2018 9:00:00 AM
SELF-CONFIDENCE
'You are Beautiful Day' energizes AHN students
AFFIRMING ONE ANOTHER (EMILY BENSON PHOTOS)
AFFIRMING ONE ANOTHER (EMILY BENSON PHOTOS)
As another event during Catholic Schools Week, the Academy of the Holy Names welcomed national motivational speaker and author Leon Logothetis, who spoke about bullying and led a "kindness workshop" for members of the school's new peer leadership team. More than 50 AHN students are involved in peer leadership.
BY EMILY BENSON
STAFF WRITER

In the gymnasium of the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, senior girls sat in groups on the floor. In each of their laps was a purple sheet of paper with the words, "You are beautiful because..." and room to write affirmations.

Each student took turns saying what she thought was beautiful about the students with whom she was sitting. The one receiving the compliments wrote the affirmations on her paper, then wrote on her arm the word she liked best -- a reminder to herself and others of a quality for which she's admired.

"Funny," "leader," "nice," read the girls' arms by the end of the activity. Some students wrote words like "supercalifragilistic." One girl complimented her friend's dimples: "I have to write down 'dimple' on my arm?" the friend laughed.

The gathering was a part of AHN's "You Are Beautiful Day," a day of self-love and empowerment to encourage students to see the beauty in themselves and in others.

"We go to an all-girls' school, and it's good to promote self-love for girls," said Stephanie Fortune, a senior and parishioner at All Saints on the Hudson in Mechanicville/Stillwater.

"Being beautiful is more than just outer beauty. It's what's inside, and being kind-hearted," said Milana Horvath, a senior from St. Pius X parish in Loudonville. "If you're beautiful on the inside, it shows on the outside."

You Are Beautiful Day was created a few years ago by a theology teacher at AHN. After the teacher moved on to a position at Siena College in Loudonville, the event was put on hold. But, this year, students expressed interest in planning the day themselves.

AHN's peer leadership team and student council organized the day as a part of Catholic Schools Week, which concluded Feb. 3. The two groups spent several weeks planning activities, purchasing t-shirts and stickers, and making signs to hang around the school.

Abigail White, a sophomore and member of the peer leadership team, told The Evangelist that "I think we forget that we are beautiful, and this is a way to realize that [we] are."

The celebration also served as a part of the national You are Beautiful Project, a public art movement through which people post silver stickers reading, "You are beautiful," to promote self-love and acceptance. The project has spread around the world and also sells shirts and hats featuring the slogan.

At AHN, students started the day by distributing the silver stickers and "You are beautiful" shirts to girls entering the building. Everyone then attended a school-wide assembly to watch a 2015 advertisement by the Always feminine hygiene product company called "Always #LikeAGirl."

The commercial discusses why acting "like a girl" is often considered insulting, and how to change that perception. "It was a really powerful video," Milana said.

Throughout the day, during breaks, each class met in groups for the affirmation activity. At lunch, students were encouraged to use a "selfie booth" set up outside the common area. A purple backdrop with the words "You are beautiful" was strung with flowers, and a box filled with hats and fluffy boas was provided for students to use when taking photos of themselves.

You are Beautiful Day also featured purple Post-It notes with the words, "You are beautiful because..." stuck on every student's locker. Classmates were encouraged to finish the sentence about their peers. Later, the notes were collected and posted on a large window in the school's common area.

Kathy Witherspoon, assistant division head at AHN, helped the student groups organize the day. She thinks it was important to spread a message of love and establish confidence.

"Adolescence is hard for girls," she said. "A girl's highest confidence is at age nine, but why does it have to be that way? Why is it all downhill from there?"

A number of students told The Evangelist that You are Beautiful Day was a fun way to feel good about themselves and make others feel beautiful, as well.

"It's important to remind people that, any standards society sets, you don't have to be like that," said senior Sophia Grant. "Just be yourself. You don't have to look a certain way."

Zoe Zubrick, a sophomore and member of the student council, loved the affirmation activity. "It felt nice," she said. "People can forget about their own beauty."

Michelle Rahal, a freshman from St. Ann's Maronite Catholic parish in Watervliet, said that You are Beautiful Day was especially relevant this year, given the number of sexual assault and abuse scandals coming to light across the country.

"Especially with everything going on in the news, like in the U.S. gymnastics and in politics, it shows that if one girl says something, it makes others stand up," she said.

"I think people are afraid of self-love," noted Katie Buddenhagen, a senior. "But people don't realize you can be humble and still have self-love."





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