A Beautiful Me cultivates confidence in formative years

A national study from Dove found that 60 percent of girls are too worried about how they look to participate in sports, visit the doctor -- even to go to school. Another alarming statistic: a girl's self-esteem peaks at age 9. That means how a girl feels about herself at nine years old is how she will view herself for life. Later in life, women with low self-esteem have a harder time advancing their careers, speaking their opinions, and being resilient in the face of challenges.

Abbey Dombrowski, 18, of St. Clair, sees this peak age as an opportunity to turn things around for these girls. As a teen mentor for A Beautiful Me, Dombrowski encourages girls through mentoring and after-school workshops so they can grow to be, well, beautiful -- inside and out.

She's been a mentor for five years and plans to continue her role through her college years. "I get just as much out of the time I spend mentoring the girls," she says.

Karen Palka, founder of A Beautiful Me, knows how fragile self-esteem can be, not just in young girls, but in women of all ages. While in her mid-40s, Palka was raising her two daughters and noticed that, like her, they struggled with positive self-image and confidence. She felt a calling to help all girls find a way to build their self-esteem, and in 2008, A Beautiful Me was born. The core of the program is an interactive four-part self-esteem workshop for girls in 3rd through 12th grade, with a particular focus on 5th graders. A Beautiful Me may be the only organization with a mission to improve self-esteem in young girls in St. Clair County, Palka says.

One Port Huron teacher from Roosevelt Elementary School wrote this testimonial after her students attended the workshops: "I am so thrilled to have been able to bring A Beautiful Me workshops to all the 5th grade girls at Roosevelt Elementary School. In today's society our young girls are faced with so many issues that sometimes the basics of who they truly are gets lost in the shuffle! I have seen so many girls come out of their shells, smile more, talk to more people, and be able to build some great relationships! I know they were very excited when Thursday was here each week. Thank you for helping these young ladies recognize their unique, true beauty."

For more information about the program or upcoming events, visit A Beautiful Me.
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