A Girl's Life

A Girl's Life

Wed, 12/30/2009 - 8:00pm

Pictured: Orion McBean at work in biology class at the Young Women’s Leadership School in East Harlem. The school opened in 1996 and was the country’s first all-girls public school to open in 25 years.

Credit: Jackie Mow

Rachael Simmons hosts this look into the lives of four teenage girls as they face challenges and opportunities.   Girls growing up in America today have more opportunities than their mothers and grandmothers ever imagined. They do well in school: by fifth grade, they’re equal to boys in math and science and they’re significantly better at reading and writing. They have more career choices, more flexibility in family roles and more female role models in positions of political power. 

But even as doors open, girls may not be able to walk confidently through them. When they get to middle school, their self-esteem plunges. Twice as many girls as boys attempt suicide. Twice as many show signs of depression. Girls have a higher risk of abusing alcohol and drugs. Since 1990, violent physical assaults by girls have skyrocketed.

Rachel Simmons, who has been studying girls’ relationships, behavior and psychology for more than a decade, hosts A Girl’s Life which airs Wednesday, December 30 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011/cable11).

In A Girls Life, Simmons goes back into the field to introduce audiences to four typical teenage American girls:

  • Analuz Adames, 15, loves to play sports and has been athletic since she was a little girl, but she still has a hard time resisting pervasive, pernicious media images of how her body should look.
  • Libby Rice, 14, found herself in junior high hell when her best friends turned cyber-bullies and staged an assault of cruel text messages, turning the entire student body against her.
  • Carla Torres, 16, got into violent fights that she was ashamed to see posted on the Internet.
  • Sonia Luna, 18, worries that she may not get into the college of her choice or get the financial aid she needs to make it out of East Harlem

Simmons also interviews parents, psychologists, teachers and social workers. They share tips for helping to nurture girls into capable, resilient adults. As viewers trace the thorny new challenges girls face, the girls themselves reveal an inspiring supply of strength, energy, smarts and support for each other. As Sonia Luna points out, “The best thing about being a girl is that we can do anything.”