Posted Date: 01/30/2024
While walking through the halls of Wantagh Middle School, you may hear an occasional “You’re beautiful!” from the 7th and 8th grade girls who participated in the two-day Hance Family Foundation’s Beautiful Me program.
The program was created after Warren and Jackie Hance lost their three young daughters, Emma, Alyson, and Katie in a car accident in 2009 which provides a lasting legacy in honor of their girls. The Hance Family Foundation was created to give back to their community by creating scholarships in honor of their girls. In addition, Warren and Jackie wished to share with others the lessons they had learned during their difficult journey:
Each participant was asked to introduce themselves by saying, “My name is ___ and I’m beautiful” which can be difficult to say for many regardless of age. When asked if it was easy to say, 8th grader Marissa LaMuro said, “You get used to it. It was weird to say at first because you may not feel that way but it’s easier to say now.” As the program continued, participants were asked to share what “beautiful” means to them, to share an inner quality they are proud of, how they practice self-care, and discussed boundaries.
Beautiful Me was designed to enhance self-esteem, increase positive self-awareness, improve problem-solving, and to help build healthy relationship skills for women and girls of all ages. Elisavet German, 7th grader, learned that she needs to focus more on the positives about herself and not the negatives. “I liked the part of the program where we were able to write things about each other,” said Averie Rissland. “I liked reading them.”
Of the 31 volunteer teachers who facilitated the program, Dr. Ariel Adrian and Jaclyn Williams, two Reading Teachers at Wantagh Middle School oversaw this year's teacher training, scheduling, and material distribution, under the guidance of Principal Anthony Ciuffo and Assistant Principal Rachel Quattrocchi.
“We are very proud of our staff for volunteering to support bringing this initiative back to Wantagh Middle School,” said Ms. Quattrocchi. “We had an overwhelming number of staff members volunteer and have received positive feedback from both our facilitators and students. It is important to us that we continue to not only focus on academics, but the social and emotional wellbeing of our students as well. We felt bringing Beautiful Me back to Wantagh Middle School was a great start!” Carolyn Sottnik, 8th grade, said “It was a really good program and has a good message.”
"The Beautiful Me program is so heartwarming,” said Dr. Adrian. “Through developing respect and empathy for one another, the program not only fosters a warm sense of belonging, but also sparks new friendships! Our girls realized they have much more in common than they thought and that genuine kindness goes such a long way, and that compliments can make someone's day. Watching the girls laugh and smile as they gave each other authentic compliments in their heart boxes was the highlight of this experience. I know the love shared in our small groups will ripple throughout the Wantagh community."