Girls get their night in at Orland Park teen center
By Ginger Brashinger Correspondent August 7, 2014 2:14PM
Priscilla Steinmetz, co-founder and executive director of The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park, welcomes participants to the center's "Girls Night In" on Friday. | Ginger Brashinger/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 9, 2014 6:03AM
Anticipation was high among a group of teenage girls waiting to start their weekend at the Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park.
The center’s fourth annual “Girls Night In” on Aug. 1, an evening meant to inspire, encourage and entertain, is a growing event, Bridge co-founder and executive director Priscilla Steinmetz said.
“We’re already expecting about 125,” Steinmetz said after prepping 10 volunteers who would facilitate events for the evening and before going outdoors to address the girls lining up in the parking lot of the teen center.
Some of the girls who already were members of the center had an idea of what to expect. Others who never had been to the popular teen hangout weren’t quite sure, but everyone seemed excited.
“I’ve been coming here pretty much since freshman year,” said Sandburg High School student Jocelyn Fabing, 17, of Oak Forest. Fabing said the “welcoming atmosphere” of the teen center was one of the reasons she encouraged her cousin, Jo Sankowski, 13, of Orland Park, to attend the girls-only event.
“I like meeting people,” Sankowski said.
She said she decided to attend the event because Fabing talked so often about the teen center and Sankowski thought it might improve her social skills.
The cousins enjoyed tea, dessert and conversation at the “Love your Body” station, one of five stations promoting the event’s theme, “Let Love Grow.”
“The group needs to hear that they’re doing great things and we care about them,” event coordinator Anna Murzydlo said. “We want the kids to know that we love our teens. We want this to be the safe place.”
Sarah O’Brien, a volunteer and school counselor who facilitated the “Write Yourself a Love Letter” station, encouraged the girls to acknowledge their positive traits.
O’Brien told the girls that although it “might sound silly” at first, “it’s so important to love yourself.”
Other inner beauty stations included “Love Others,” where participants each made a bracelet of 10 beads and were challenged to “try to do 10 good deeds in one week.”
“Love your Selfie” encouraged girls to “share little moments” by using pictures of themselves helping people or engaged in service activities.
Recording artist Lexi Elisha, 21, spoke to the group about the importance of feelings of self-worth. Elisha, who performed for the girls at the end of the evening, shared her personal story of problems with eating disorders.
“I have a passion for teenage girls,” Elisha said. “I’m here to tell them they’re not alone and they are loved.”
Even the “Love Your Reflection” and “Love Your Body” stations — with an emphasis on cleanliness, a healthy body, healthy skin and hair — focused on using outer beauty to enhance the inner self.
“Let yourself focus on developing love and respect for yourself that is not just skin deep,” said a take-home booklet reflecting the evening’s activities and with space to document carrying the new skills forward.
Participants also went home with a “goody bag” of lotions, perfume, hair accessories and a “you’re beautiful” mirror decal.
A first-time “Boys Night In” was scheduled for the following evening, Murzydlo said. She said the Bridge saw “a great need for the guys” to have a similar event that would “make them feel comfortable.”
“I can see why kids would want to be here,” O’Brien said. “From a counseling perspective, this is such a cool concept.”