Afterschool Program Empowers Fifth-Grade Girls

Two Maple Grove Elementary staff members set out to empower the next generation of confident, resilient female leaders through a new afterschool program this past school year.

“We’re particularly passionate about developing confident leaders in our girls because we know young girls are especially vulnerable to issues like unrealistic beauty standards, rising anxiety and depression, navigating friendships and social pressures, gender stereotypes, and developing a sense of identity and belonging,” Counselor Melissa Stone says.

Starting the Afterschool Program

A Maple Grove Elementary parent and leader from the Chrysalis FoundationĀ approached Stone about starting Chrysalis After-School. Principal Graham Jones, who has previous experience with the not-for-profit, helped get approval from the school board, and the program began in October. Stone enlisted the help of fifth-grade teacher Ally Webb as the first group of 27 girls met once a week for an hour after school.

Photo of Melissa Stone and Ally Webb.


“As female leaders in education, we share a commitment to empowering young people. It’s the reason we entered this profession! Through our afterschool program, we tried to create a fun and engaging space to explore important topics and build lasting connections while we learned,” Webb says.

Empowering Fifth-Grade Girls

The Chrysalis Foundation’s mission is to invest in the safety, security, education, and economic empowerment of girls and women in our community. Chrysalis After-School is one program offered by the Foundation.

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During the weekly meetings, students focused on self-esteem, passion projects, healthy relationships, and positive life choices. Among the events the fifth graders enjoyed were a Galentine’s Day Party, STEAM challenges, and guest speakers. They made friendship bracelets, painted plates, and created calming glitter jars as a coping mechanism to handle big emotions.

Girls celebrating with pink balloons and hearts.

“The group also complements our ‘Leader in Me’ initiative by nurturing leadership in girls as they grow. Waukee CSD prides itself on instilling leadership skills, a sense of belonging and inclusion, and developing people through an exceptional education. Chrysalis After-School is enhancing all those skills in a fun format for girls,” Webb adds.

Rewarding Success After Year One

“Seeing the girls blossom in our group was truly rewarding. We saw friendships flourish and once-shy girls come out of their shells and shine. Ultimately, we hope the girls felt loved, challenged, respected, and filled with joy during their time with us,” Stone remarks.

Webb and Stone are already planning to offer Chrysalis After-School to a new cohort of fifth graders at Maple Grove Elementary in the fall.