Lakota East senior Erinn Aulfinger is combining her passion for writing with her compassion for helping an up-and-coming generation of Lakota girls.
“When I went to middle school and high school, I noticed many of my friends struggling with the consequences of low self-esteem,” Erinn said. “I wanted to do more than just help them, but help stop the problem before it started for other girls.”
This revelation shaped the whole premise of her Girl Scout GOLD Award project: a book of inspirational stories she would publish and make available to the parents of Lakota’s 1,300+ sixth-grade girls. Why girls? Through her research, Erinn discovered that girls experience the biggest drop in self-esteem between 9 and 11 years old, that is both deeper and longer-lasting than that of boys.
For more than a year, Erinn consulted with hundreds of organizations, expert sources and successful women of all ages who had overcome their own adolescent struggles. She even collaborated with Always’s “Like a Girl” campaign to gain funding for her project. Her efforts culminated in over 600 hours of research and service, well above and beyond the 100 hours required of a GOLD Award recipient.
“Erinn’s project and her intentional decision to connect it back to the Lakota community is the definition of service,” said Lakota East Principal Suzanna Davis. “It’s a soft skill that’s taught at so many points during a Lakota student’s educational experience and it’s great to see it put into action in such a thoughtful and productive way.”
The finished product, "Rewriting Your Story," is 83 pages of inspirational stories written from the perspective of older girls and women who have overcome their own challenges with self-esteem. It also includes expert-driven exercises to help girls better understand and appreciate themselves and others, and tips to avoid the common pitfalls girls begin to face in during adolescence, like bullying, body image and stress management.
“I am so grateful that Erinn has provided such an inspiring resource for girls and their parents to open doors to communicate about very challenging issues in our current day society,” said Independence Elementary Counselor Kelly Carstens, who has received feedback that the book is a great conversation starter and a good way to test a parent’s perception versus reality.
It was Erinn’s discovery in junior high of Lakota East’s co-curricular journalism program, a nationally-recognized monthly magazine called “Spark,” that helped her find her own footing and direct her post-graduation plans.
Like the work she’s done through Spark, this project was another big learning experience for her.
“I actually learned what I hope the girls reading the book will learn,” Erinn said. “It opened my eyes to the fact that girls and women alike struggle with self-esteem. It helped me realize that no one is alone, and that’s really the whole purpose behind the book.”
The books are being distributed to interested parents of any Lakota sixth grade girl at two optional evening parent meetings. The final meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium at Lakota West Freshman Campus.
Parents are also invited to contact their elementary school counselor to request a copy of the book.