The transition from girlhood marks an important time in many young women’s lives.
But many girls at the Hutton Settlement Children’s Home in Spokane Valley don’t have strong female role models they can look to for guidance as they navigate the sometimes ungainly journey of growing up.
At the settlement’s first Just Girls event Saturday, a team of volunteers taught about 20 girls, ages 5 to 18, some of the things a mother might teach her daughter: hair, makeup, fashion, etiquette and above all, confidence.
“It’s not an innate knowledge,” said Monique Cotton, Hutton’s director of community relations and communication. “You have to learn it somewhere.”
The Hutton Settlement is a residential care facility that provides a safe and stable home to children and aims to educate them, academically and otherwise, Cotton said.
At the event, a Mary Kay consultant taught them how to apply age-appropriate makeup. Paul Mitchell hair stylists teased, pinned, curled and crimped the girls’ hair into formal coiffures, then painted their nails a color of the girls’ choosing.
“The look on these girls’ faces … they feel beautiful,” Cotton said. “That’s maybe the most important lesson of all, to teach them they are beautiful.
“Building confidence is the biggest thing.”
The lesson wasn’t lost on a beaming 18-year-old Miranda Merchant, who donned a black-and-white dress, classic up-do and red nails and lips.
“It’s like being a princess for a day,” she said. “You just feel pretty, so you act more like yourself. It brings out your inner light. It makes you feel pretty on the inside.”
For Merchant, who hopes to attend cosmetology school after getting an associate of arts degree, the event gave her a glimpse into what her future career might be like.
“It’s kind of cool to talk to (the stylists) and learn what their day is like,” she said.
She also learned some new hair and makeup looks to prepare her for her upcoming prom at West Valley High School, but her favorite part of the day: picking out one of the dresses, which came in scores of sizes, styles and colors.
“It’s fun to try on all the dresses,” she said. “It’s kind of like your own mall here.”
About 60 formal dresses were donated for the girls to pick from and keep. Most were collected by University of Idaho junior Jessica Dauenhauer, who is pursuing a degree in early childhood development and hopes to become a social worker.
Her desire to help began with the donation of her own dresses, but grew to include 44 dresses she collected from other UI students.
“It just kind of snowballed into a bigger thing,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to get so many dresses.”
At the end, the gussied-up girls posed for glamour photos and learned table manners while enjoying a meal donated by Vintages @ 611 restaurant.
After the success of this year’s event, volunteers and staff hope to do another Just Girls event next year.
“This is such a cool thing for the girls,” Cotton said. “They were so pumped.”