I had the pleasure of joining around eighty Muleshoe ISD 5th through 8th grade girls and their moms and other female role models to celebrate and learn about GiRL POWER ; Girls in Real Life. MISD partnered with the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health to bring this event to Muleshoe.


Upon entering the Muleshoe High School Commons area, I was greeted by lots of pink flamingos and smiling faces in blue shirts adorned with the Stand Tall, Be Flamazing theme, as seen here on  Madeline Hettinga, who was one of those in charge of the day’s activities, along with committee members Dani Heathington, Suzanne King, Val McCamish, Hollye Hooten, Amanda Sealy, Kamry Cribbs, and Angela Richards, and a flock of other volunteers.


Madeline, who is a parent on MISD’s District Forum, said forum members fell into a discussion back in 2018 that centered on helping middle school-age girls make good decisions and develop their self- confidence. She contacted the Laura Bush Institute then, and in 2019 Muleshoe had its first Girl Power program. Like everything else in 2020, this large group event was put on hold, but this year was a good time to bounce back and try it again. So they did.

The fun and informative event was a group effort. Brittany Pendley and Angela Richards greeted participants at the door.


The registration table was manned by Madeline Hettinga, Val McCamish, Hollye Hooten, and seated, Charity Price, Baylee Black,  and Jaimie Davis. MISD Superintendent Dr. R. L. Richards was also on hand to offer his support for the event. Participants received their T-shirts, goody bags, and registered for door prizes at this table.


Then they moved to the next table where Shannon Mosier and Cheyanne Cage added a journal and a Kilgore Rangerette exercise video to each mother/daughter combo’s bag.


Victoria Bomer and Cheryl McKenzie helped those in need of childcare for younger children who might have come along.


Jeorgina Gonzalez and Diana Gardea were available at the translation table if anyone was in need of a second language for the day.  Childcare and translations were provided to make sure everyone who wanted to participate could take part.


Big Bash Photo from Lubbock provided a photo booth for complimentary images along with a magnetic photo sleeve so the pictures could be put on the refrigerator door as a reminder of the fun day. Owner Jill Leven even brought her mother along to enjoy the day, just like the other girls with their moms/role  models.


The speakers, Dr. Amy Stark, psychiatrist, and Dr. Shauna Thornhill, optometrist, along with Ashley Forti, Assistant Director of the Laura Bush Institute, and Angela Eggers, Senior Director of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, all came from Amarillo representing the Institute.


Suzanne King, MISD CTE director, served as master of ceremonies introducing speakers and providing instructions and directions for the different break-out sessions. Susan Hinojosa, MISD Technology Director, provided tech support as needed.


Inspirational quotes ran on the video screen while everyone was coming in, along with lists giving credit and thanks to those who helped make the event a reality.


Along with a grant from the Laura Bush Institute and Muleshoe ISD, financial support was supplied by American Beef Packers, Beautiful  You Program Founders, Wayne Copley Trucking, Muleshoe Fellowship, First Baptist Church Muleshoe, and Texas Farm Bureau. Donors of the door prizes drawn for between sessions,  some of whom also donated for items in the goody bags and the bags themselves were BiWize Home, Burton Service Center, 3-H Dairy, Desert Rose Events, Dollar General, Eevolve, Farm Bureau Agents, Farmhouse Flowers, Friesan Hay Inc., Fry & Cox Hardware, Laura W. Bush Institute, Mohawk Autos, Muleshoe LIvestock Auction, New Mexico Milkmaid, Newton Appliance, North Muleshoe Dairy, Salty Chic Nail, Southwest Dairy Farmers, Trevor and Ashley Turnbow, Wild Prairie Studio, and me. MAMC and Bamert Seed also contributed to the goody bags. Catholic Family Charities provided a separate goody bag as well.

Besides the volunteers who showed up Saturday who have already been mentioned, Gaylene Whitworth, Brenna Butler, Sylvia Dominguez, Christy Butler, Candice Madrid and Milenia Estrada were also there to help, and Friday evening they were helped by Kaci Morris, Jennifer Burrus, Amanda Sealy, Billy Pendley, and a crew of Coach Angela Richards’ athletes who helped with the heavy work, like moving tables.

There was even a fun list of facts about flamingos who were the inspiration for the theme of the day!


Kamry Cribbs’ MHS floral design class carried out the flamingo theme in the table decorations they provided.



Photo courtesy of CDMADRID

After everyone checked in and had breakfast, courtesy of Southwest Dairy Farmers and Southwest Food Service Excellence, which serves the school cafeteria, things got under way.



Mrs. King gave the welcome and announcements and then introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Shauna Thornhill from Amarillo, who challenged the girls to “Be a Flamingo in a Flock of Pigeons,” and shared her story of defeating the odds of negative feedback and poverty to reach her goals of college and medical school. She shared three life lessons with the audience: nothing matters but your will to succeed; life is not fair and is never going to be; you can add value to people’s lives, or you can take it away, and elaborated on each lesson.

“Stand Tall” was Dr. Amy Stark’s talk about the pros and cons of social media. While social media sites can provide good exchanges and share ideas, it is, after all, a virtual reality that shouldn’t replace the real thing. She discussed the temptation to “compare and despair” from what is seen on social media and how that brings on anxiety and depression, how risky behavior is sometimes encouraged online, and how to deal with cyber bullying.


Mrs. King called for a short break after the two talks and then directed the moms and role models to the auditorium for a session with Dr. Stark while the girls stayed in the Commons area for self-esteem building activities.

Dr. Stark gave the adults tips on setting boundaries with the young girls and then took questions from the audience.


The girl flamingos, in the meantime, were having fun sharing positive words and traits to describe themselves and each other. Mrs. King talked to them about how comparing themselves to others negatively affects their self-esteem and encouraged them to list ten positive traits about themselves in their journals and then share that with their moms/role models and talk about it.




The next break-out sessions were for moms/role models and their girls together. Fifth and sixth grade girls and their moms learned yoga with Brittany Pendley from Wild Prairie Studio in the gym while seventh and eighth grade girls and moms worked on Morse code bracelets at the tables; then the groups switched activities. I watched one yoga session as Brittany had everyone stretch, breath calmly while thinking positive thoughts, and try some yoga poses.



Then I moved back to the tables and tried making my own bracelet with my descriptive word written out in beads in Morse code. My old hands had a hard time stringing the beads, and I got so flustered I misspelled my word! The girls did much better with their words to inspire and remind them of their good traits when they might need a boost.


                                                                                                                                                                     Photo courtesy of CDMADRID


After everyone came back together, Mrs. King had a few closing words and an inspirational video which suggested not asking what do you want to do when you grow up, but rather, what do you want to do now? Suzanne reminded them to balance their lives and be flamazing and asked them to complete an evaluation before grabbing a lunch box before leaving.



Photo courtesy of CDMADRID


Photo courtesy of CDMADRID

The Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health was founded in 2007 and is a part of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The Institute is  research-based and focuses on medical gender differences that affect women differently from men,  as well as providing education and community outreach. The Institute is Texas-based and serves the state from offices in Abilene, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Lubbock, and San Angelo. The GiRL POWER program started in 2009 in Amarillo.


                                                                                                                                                                     Photo courtesy of CDMADRID


                                                                                                                                                                    Photo courtesy of CDMADRID

_MG_9868                                                                                                                                                                    Photo courtesy of CDMADRID


                                                                 Photo courtesy of CDMDRID

It’s hard growing up in this old world.  It’s tough being a parent, too.  This GiRL POWER event supplied a wealth of good tools to daughters and moms/role models to put things in perspective, encourage positive communication, and have some fun.

It was a good day to be flamazing!

Thanks to Madeline Hettinga, Val McCamish, Angela Eggers, Suzanne King, Kaci Morris, CandIce Madrid, and  Dana Rasco for their help with this story.