We are proud to present this guest blog post by Breanna Cadena and Olivia Sanchez of Promesa Academy Charter School about the Girl Talk Club that they co-founded at the school.
As women in the education system, many of us see ourselves in our students, whether it be in their appearance, their family life, or in the issues they face. The ability to see ourselves in our students sparked a need to act on our empathy, to help and foster conversations between us as educators and our girls. That spark ignited the creation of Girl Talk, an after school club where girls engage in conversations about confidence, empowerment, and uplifting each other. Our goal is to guide young girls in building meaningful relationships.
Developing Girl Talk Club
In the beginning phases, we brainstormed our vision for Girl Talk and we shared our childhood experiences as girls in school. We talked about the difficulties we faced growing up: from fitting in to being different, body image issues and pressures, and finding and loving who we were in a world that told us to do anything but. Both of us found common ground in the fact that we did not always know how to deal with issues or know who to turn to. We immediately knew we wanted more for the girls at Promesa, and began to create a space where they felt safe to express what they were thinking, feeling, or questioning about growing up as a girl.
As we began our first semester of Girl Talk, we decided to focus our efforts on building the club around three pillars: self-love, love for others, and love for our school community. We began to create activities that would invoke a sense of compassion and empathy in our girls towards themselves and others. Our first day of club, the air in the room was filled with excitement and wonder about what Girl Talk was going to be all about.
Girl Talk Activities
As a way to break the ice, we did activities that would bond our girls with each other and us, one of which included a “What Do You Think Self Love Is?” anchor chart, where we got to hear how they perceived self-love. Their answers were inspiring, full of truth, and wisdom considering their age group. We couldn’t write fast enough, as they gave answers left and right. A few responses were “Affirmations like the ones we say in morning meetings!” or “Listening to music to make me feel better,” and “Eating ice cream when you’re sad.”
We showed the girls they could utilize a good, old-fashioned spa day as a way to show ourselves love. As little girls, learning about how to show love and care for ourselves wasn’t explicitly taught, and we wanted to ensure that our group of girls learned one of many ways that we can do that. With cucumbers for their eyes, homemade avocado masks for their faces and sparkling water, the girls got to see that self love can be fun and feel good too! We could overhear the girls talking to each other about how they have never done anything like this.
The girls ended the day by writing letters to themselves which focused on what they loved about who they are and words of encouragement for hard days. Since then we have led activities focusing on body image, inner beauty, bullying, and spreading kind words across campus to create a more positive culture of love for our school community.
Growing Girl Talk Club
Hoping to build off of our previous semester of Girl Talk, we began this semester with the same hopes for our new group of girls: facilitating a space for each girl to explore what makes her special, how to build healthy relationships, and care for our local community. This quarter we will be developing an automated phone line where people can call and listen to words of encouragement and positivity. Their empathy never ceases to amaze us and their excitement for this project is unmatched.
We plan to grow and expand Girl Talk in a few different ways. We believe that because we are a school that is growing by grade each year, we will be able to build upon what they have learned in prior years as they move up in school. Our goal is to run the club throughout the school year, and with each semester we will add more topics relating to their age. We are well aware that girls in kindergarten and girls in fourth grade do not go through the same things, so we want to make sure that we create activities and spaces that differentiate as they grow. Additionally, we are partnering with Girls Inc. and other organizations like them to help us with this growth. We believe that gathering resources from our community—whether it be from outside organizations or from the parents of some of our girls—will be crucial in helping us reach our goals for Girl Talk.
Teaching at Promesa Academy
Having the freedom to create this club is one of the many reasons we love working at Promesa. When we first brought up the Girl Talk Club idea to Ambika Dani, our CEO and Founder, she loved it. She agreed that there was a need for a club like this and empowered us to run with it. Being given the opportunity to create something so our own is what we love about Promesa. Our administration has created a space for us to express ourselves as teachers and counselors in ways that give back to ourselves and our students. Every day we work towards instilling lessons not just about math and literacy, but also about life and how to navigate this world. As we build our school culture, we focus on doing it together, which is something that we appreciate as educators.
What’s in a name? Our school’s name, Promesa, is a reminder of the promises we make to ourselves—but more importantly, the promises we make to our students.
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Breanna Cadena, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Associate at Promesa Academy Charter School, and Olivia Sanchez, K–3 Science Teacher at Promesa Academy Charter School, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on April 14, 2022 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.
Breanna Cadena is a National Certified Counselor and a current Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Associate at Promesa Academy Charter School in San Antonio. Originally from the Rio Grande Valley, Breanna recognized a stigma towards “mental health” amongst her community and decided to be a part of the movement towards destigmatizing the term.
Breanna moved to Austin in 2015 to attend The University of Texas at Austin where she pursued a B.A. in Psychology. From there, Breanna moved to San Antonio in 2018 to pursue a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at The University of Texas at San Antonio. While pursuing this degree, Breanna furthered her passion for helping others who would not get help otherwise. She felt it necessary to help psychoeducate and find resources for those who did not even recognize help was available. She is well aware we are far from destigmatizing the term “mental health” completely but believes students are the population to begin with so we can build a community surrounded in empathy.
Breanna recognizes how important it is to have these conversations and build relationships with not only our students, but their families as well. She is incredibly excited to begin her counseling journey as part of the founding team at Promesa Academy.
Olivia Sanchez is a K–3 Science Teacher at Promesa Academy Charter School in San Antonio. Olivia was raised on a ranch just outside San Antonio. She grew up helping take care of the garden, chickens, and other livestock around the farm, and knew from an early age that her life would be about more than just herself. With both of her parents being teachers, education has always been a fundamental part of her life and teaching was something she aspired to do.
Throughout high school she tutored peers, and upon entering college she became a writing consultant, guiding her classmates with the writing process and resume building. During her last year of college, she co-founded Huston-Tillotson University’s first environmental student organization, Green is the New Black. The organization created hands-on lessons for campus students and neighboring elementary schools on topics such as recycling, sustainability, gardening, and the impact on our community by being good stewards of the Earth.
Olivia graduated from Huston-Tillotson in 2014 and continued working for the university as a program coordinator until moving back home to San Antonio in 2016, where her love of teaching continued to blossom in her work as a substitute teacher and her work in the service industry. Her love for children shines through with each interaction and her passion for science is visible. She has a natural ability to connect and form genuine relationships with students and families.
While at Promesa she is integrating horticulture programs and practices on campus for the benefit of the school community. Olivia is excited to start her teaching career at Promesa, where she enjoys instilling a sense of community and belonging with the students and families.
Outside of school, Olivia enjoys spending time with her friends and family, three dogs, and two cats. She also loves babysitting her younger brother, niece, and nephews whenever she can. She enjoys thrift shopping, reading, and adding to her plant and rock collection.
Read More About Promesa Academy
- “Guide to Enrolling in Promesa Academy Charter School in San Antonio for 2022–23,” San Antonio Charter Moms, October 28, 2021
- “Discover Math All Around Us,” Ambika Dani, San Antonio Charter Moms, June 10, 2020
- “Brand new charter school surprises families with puppy parade,” Danielle Moody, News 4 San Antonio, May 22, 2020
- “Kids learn coding to thank those working during COVID-19,” Alicia Barrera, KSAT 12, April 16, 2020
- “An Introduction to Promesa Academy at the First Information Meeting,” San Antonio Charter Moms, November 9, 2017