Tablet Local

Character-building groups created at Arlington Seguin are gaining reputation

Within the south Arlington high school community that proudly calls itself Seguin Nation, the Girls Rock and the guys are real MEN.

That is to say, a lot of positive energy and soul-sharing goes on within Seguin High School’s two character-building organizations, students and faculty sponsors say.

Seguin Girls Rock aims to educate, engage and empower girls for leadership and help them form healthy friendships and strong support groups. The group meets every six weeks.

Faith Williams, a 16-year-old senior, likes the group’s communal feel and its skits, dances and spoken-word forms of self-expression.

“We’re all together, like one big sisterhood,” she said. “It’s not clique-ish at all.”

Just over a year ago, she came from a small high school of about 300 students in California to Seguin, with an enrollment of 1,664. So there was some adjusting to do.

“It’s great knowing there’s a place you can go to talk to someone,” Williams said.

This is the first year for a Girls Rock peer-mentoring program, said Shanta Mackey, faculty adviser who is also science department chair and a cheerleader coach.

Senior Brianna Blankenship, 17, has been a member of Girls Rock since her sophomore year and hopes to be one of those mentors.

She has had some troubling issues but says Girls Rock has given her “a big boost in self-confidence.”

“It has helped me open up a little bit more,” Blankenship said. “I used to be very, very antisocial and I would hide behind my hair.”

Principal Sam Nix says the two programs “help define the culture of Seguin, and that’s so important.”

Girls Rock and Seguin MEN, which stands for Magnificent, Educated and Needed, are both locally conceived programs unique to Seguin, organizers say.

Football coach Carlos Lynn and then-Principal Michael Hill came up with the idea for Girls Rock, and by the 2011-12 school year it was born. MEN followed in 2012-13.

The latter appealed to a guy like Toryon Evans, a 17-year-old senior who has been a member since the beginning.

“I like the fact that it’s taught me a lot about what to expect about life outside of school, and it teaches me how to just be a man,” said Evans, who is on the Student Council, the National Honor Society and the football team.

The only downside is that because of Lynn’s job as football coach, MEN can’t schedule many activities in the fall. There are usually three meetings in the spring and at least one meeting a year with both groups.

Lynn is particularly committed to mentoring the MEN about domestic violence.

“We’ve had a young man on the football team whose mother was murdered over a domestic violence issue,” Lynn said. “I really wanted to do something to honor his family.”

Outside community groups have contributed goods and formed connections with the groups, the sponsors said.

Word of Truth Family Church contracts with the school district to meet in Seguin’s building on Sundays, and it has been particularly supportive of MEN and Girls Rock.

Last year, winners of the clubs’ joint raffle got to dress up and travel to a fine restaurant in a stretch limousine furnished by the church. Once there, they received etiquette lessons from church members and learned how to make dinner conversation.

On other occasions, local celebrities with positive impact have been brought in to speak to the groups, such as Lady Jade, an on-air personality for K104 FM.

Mackey is proud that the influence of Girls Rock is spreading beyond the school’s Silo Road campus and through the junior high schools in Seguin’s network.

Ousley Junior High and other high schools, including Lamar and Mansfield Summit, have made inquiries about starting their own programs.

“You have to be able to start new traditions. This is something no other school has,” said Lynn. “It’s one of our marks of distinction.”