The Beauty of Ugly Ducklings

 

While most graduating seniors are uncertain about what the future holds, Jeanette Richelson '05 had it made. She had a teaching contract with the New York Teaching Fellows.

By Neha Sud '05
 

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Ugly Ducklings, however, is no ordinary project. The play deals with issues of sexuality and bias-based harassment, bullying, and suicide at a girls' summer camp in Maine. Most of the cast is 8- to 16-year-old students from schools in Maine. Ugly Ducklings was produced by Hardy Girls Healthy Women and Greater Waterville's Communities for Children and Youth, and it made its premiere run at Strider Theater September 15 through 17.

Richelson played the role of a stern, and apathetic camp counselor. Along with Siri Ashton '05, she worked on a Community Action Kit that will accompany a documentary film by award-winning director and producer Fawn Yacker. The kit, which will be distributed nationally, includes educational resources and a discussion guide on gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) issues in youth culture.

"I gave up my teaching job because I saw how devoted the people involved in this project were to making a difference," said Richelson. "I can't fathom how anyone could take their life, but kids kill themselves because of bias-based harassment. It shows how hurtful and cruel the words of others can be." The Ugly Ducklings team hopes the project will raise consciousness about GLBT issues. "We want the kids to develop compassion for those who are queer and harassed because of their identity," said Richelson.

Co-created by Professor of Education Lyn Mikel Brown and Karen Heck '74, Hardy Girls Healthy Women is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the physical and social well-being of girls and women in Maine. Several Colby students have worked with the organization as volunteers or employees since its inception in 2000.