LOUISVILLE, Ky. ­­– Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) signed an agreement in December 2019 with an after-school program called The Earhart Club that aims to build confidence in young girls aged 8 to 9. The first school to request and try the program is Luhr Elementary School, and 17 of its third grade girls are three weeks into the 10 week program.

“We’ve noticed that our third graders were needing more skills about self-confidence, and self-discipline, and we just felt like this would be a great program,” said Luhr Elementary’s Family Resource Center Coordinator, Krista Campisano.

Campisano’s job is to remove all non-academic barriers to education. When she heard The Earhart Club was available as an after-school program option to JCPS, she used $400 from her budget to bring the program to Luhr Elementary.

“The idea is for the girls to find their voice in a genuine way before they lose it to the expectations of others,” said Angus Williams, who founded The Earhart Club. He was inspired in part to start it because he has a daughter so he knows how important it is for kids to develop self-confidence and authentic connections.

For ten weeks, The Earhart Club meets every Thursday for an hour at Luhr Elementary after school. The program is run by Williams and two volunteers from the community.

The hour starts by writing questions to a mystery friend. It allows the girls to ask and answer questions in a more authentic way, using their own voice, since they don’t know who the other person is.

After they write questions to their mystery friend, the girls write questions to their mom or other guardian. They talk about what they wrote during the club at home to further develop the relationship.

“So they learn to not only trust mom or their guardian in that instance, but more importantly they learn to trust themselves, and that leads to sort of believing in themselves, which is the bedrock of healthy decision making and actual self-esteem rather than ego,” Williams said.

Inspiring female role models are also introduced each week, from Amelia Earhart to Misty Copeland. Each person chosen has faced challenges and adversity, but has also been uplifted with the help of others to overcome and achieve great things.

The third graders take time to read about these iconic women and are asked in what ways they relate. Back at home, the girls take time to share what they learned and ask questions.

The pillars of The Earhart Club are curiosity, understanding, and values. Through questions to their mystery friend, parents, and to themselves, the engagement helps build a healthy sense of self and authentic connections. 

“How kids learn that they are valuable is by choosing them. Choosing to sit with them, choosing to see the world through their eyes, and not insist that they see the world through ours, and when they have that dynamic, they learn to trust us, and more importantly, they learn to trust themselves, and from that comes great things,” Williams said.

It also helps build a better student.

“If I feel confident or I feel worthy, if I feel I can achieve the things some of these other great ladies did, then I’m going to be more of a participant in class, and I’m going to be a more active learner than if they hadn’t been in the program,” Campisano said.

Even though the program is only three weeks in, Campisano said she’s already seen its benefits and plans to bring it back to Luhr Elementary in the fall. The agreement allows schools at JCPS to offer the after-school program if they choose.