Rhonda Scott found herself attending a
new school in the seventh grade. Instead
of making new friends, she found herself
confronted by a girl who kept calling
"I didn't know what to do,"
she remembers. Then, one of the house
mothers at the school, the residential
Milton S. Hershey School, suggested she
try Club Ophelia, a program that aims
to reduce bullying among middle school
girls using mentoring and an arts-based
Rhonda participated in the club and liked
it so much she enrolled again this past
year as an eighth grader. And when she
found herself back at school facing a
girl who was picking on her and spreading
rumors about her, she knew exactly what
"Instead of instigating a fight,
I tried to talk to her," Rhonda said.
"At first she was surprised, and
then we talked for a long time. Now we
say hello when we see each other in the
Counselors and teachers are successful
in attracting girls to Club Ophelia because
it provides an environment where they
can learn how to develop friendships,
explained its creator, winner of the University's
Faculty Outreach Award Dr. Cheryl Dellasega,
associate professor of humanities and
chair of the Arts, Healing and Humanities
Committee in the Penn State College of
Medicine at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey
"Every girl is concerned about making
friends," Dellasega said.
arts-based curriculum boosts self-esteem
among these middle school girls.
courtesy of Dr. Cheryl Dellasega
And Dellasega, who is a certified registered
nurse practitioner with a Ph.D. in health
education, has made these girls a concern
of hers. Combining her clinical training
and academic background with her artistic
ability, she applies the arts and healing
to individuals, organizations and communities,
with a particular emphasis on teenage
girls and their families.
In addition to the club, a more intensive
five-day campheld annually at the
Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC)
and offered free of charge with support
from HACC, Dauphin County RADAR Network
Center, Family and Children's Services
of Dauphin County and Family Health Councilalso
offers girls of diverse backgrounds ways
to improve self-esteem, as well as alternatives
to bullying, known as relational aggression.
Relational aggression is a common theme
in Dellasega's work. The club and camp
evolved out of a committee she created
to identify programs that could address
the issue. The Surviving Ophelia committee,
comprised of a diverse group of community
members from throughout central Pennsylvania,
offered a workshop on the subject in the
fall of 2001 at the Harrisburg YWCA for
educators and leaders of community programs.
Now, another school district in Pennsylvania,
Elizabethtown, is starting to host the
club, and Dellasega has started to train
others so the programs can be offered
throughout Pennsylvania and beyond.
Women Learn Life Skills
of Club Ophelia make a collage of
At the prison from 1998 to 2001, Dellasega
taught life skills, such as stress management,
communication and writing to the women.
She also coordinated an arts-based activity
for mothers and children in the Woodside
Family Center at the prison in order to
promote positive visiting experiences.
"It was evident that she was aware
of and sensitive to the needs of this
marginalized population and effectively
interacted with them," said Dr. Irene
C. Baird, who as director of Penn State
Harrisburg Women's Enrichment Center facilitates
programs for women at the jail. "Not
only did she ‘sell herself' well,
but she also represented the University
well in reaching out to one of the most
silenced, invisible populations in our
Dellasega would also sometimes bring to
the mother-daughter sessions at the Woodside
Family Center her own daughter, who as
a teenager was having a difficult time
"I think [the activities] did make
her feel better about herself," Dellasega
Dellasega has written two guide-books
for parents about the needs of adolescent
girls: Surviving Ophelia: Mothers
Share Their Wisdom of the Tumultuous Teenage
(Perseus & Ballentine,
2002) and Girl Wars: Twelve Tried
and True Strategies for Ending Female
(Simon & Schuster, 2003).
(Her third book, Stung! Helping Adult
Women Who Are Queen Bees, Middle Bees,
John Wiley Inc., is due this year and
addresses whether adult women treat each
other as they did when they were adolescents.)
The books are highly acclaimed, and her
scholarship on the subject of relational
aggression has garnered state and national
media attention, including a national
radio tour and an appearance on NBC's
The Today Show
Dellasega often receives e-mails from
appreciative readers of her books, including
one note that said she literally "saved"
a girl's life. Such feedback from people
is gratifying for Dellasega who, as part
of the University, feels compelled to
do outreach work.
"We are privileged at the University
to have special expertise and resources
to benefit people in the community,"
Dellasega said. "Outreach is a bridge
between the University and the community."
And Dellasega has plenty of expertise
and resources in her own right to share.
"I bring together my artistic talents
with the ability to connect with a lot
of different people," she said. "It's
a way to get things done."