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April 15, 2014

IU psychology students mentor middle schoolers

(Continued)

"I was kind of nervous to lick the lemon," said 13-year-old Ada Port, who was expecting her lips to pucker. "I managed to eat the entire slice, including the peel. It tasted like candy."

"I didn't know our taste buds can be changed so easily," said Rachel Abdoo, a 12-year-old BPS student. "Just a little pill changed the whole way we taste."

While their time at IU gave them an opportunity to learn what a brain feels like and how it manages the body's functions, much of what the BPS students gain from their experience with what they call "Girls Group" isn't as tangible.

The middle-schoolers in Girls Group visit with an IU student twice a week at the Project School. There are 19 IU students from the department of psychological and brain sciences who visit with 70 area girls enrolled in the Project, Jackson Creek, Batchelor and Harmony schools. Mentors talk with them about issues teen girls face, ranging from body image, eating disorders and gender stereotypes to cyberbullying and women's academic achievement in science and math.

"The IU students present excellent role models for the middle school girls. In addition, each week they address an assigned topic that encourages the girls to consider positive ways to address the challenges they face during this developmental time period," said Linda Hoke-Sinex, the instructor for the IU course on the psychology of adolescent girls.

According to Hoke-Sinex, during adolescence, girls' "focus tends to shift from academics to appearance and socially related activities." Pressure from parents, peers, the media and society can cause teenagers to "experience a drop in self-esteem or a negative body image. Teen girls also begin to 'self-objectify,' meaning that they tend to lose touch with their own emotions and feelings because they feel they are merely objects for others to view," she said in an email.

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