Michelle Bruno 250

Counseling professor Michelle Bruno has received a $45,000 grant from the FISA Foundation to continue the Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX) empowerment program for adolescent girls in local schools.

Bruno, working with school counselors, has conducted the 22-week ROX program with seventh-graders in Connellsville Area School District and fifth-graders in Ligonier Valley School District.

With the new funding, Bruno will continue the program in these school districts and hopes to bring ROX to the Indiana Area School District.

Bruno has been involved with ROX since its creation in 2006 by Ohio State professor Lisa Hinkelman. ROX is a comprehensive curriculum, based on an intense qualitative and quantitative data collection, designed to address the pressures in young girls' lives and to equip them with skills to effectively negotiate challenges. More than 2,000 girls in grades 5–10 have participated in ROX in Ohio.

“We both did work as counselors in the Ohio State counseling center, but Lisa was interested in combatting problems earlier in girls' lives,” Bruno said. “The idea is to impact them in their younger years, so they can begin to see themselves differently. It fits nicely into the school system.”

Bruno said that ROX has received a very strong response from not only the students, but also school administrators and parents asking the program can be kept in their schools.

The ROX lessons are tailored by age group and cover topics such as body issues, bullying, academic and career development, and friendships.

Lessons in western PA have included a tour of the IUP campus and facilities as part of the students' exposure to postsecondary life. “We showed them the residence halls and what classes look like,” Bruno said. “They loved it.”

Bruno hopes to involve IUP students as volunteer speakers or hosts when the ROX students next visit campus. Interested students may contact her at michelle.bruno@iup.edu.

ROX has been supported by the IUP Research Institute and Office of the President and by the FISA Foundation, a nonprofit that provides grants to organizations that improve the lives of women, girls, and people with disabilities in 10 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.