NEW HANOVER COUNTY -- Bullying and fighting is no longer just a problem with boys. In recent years, the number of girls throwing punches seems to be on the rise.
At Murray Middle School, administrators are hoping to stop the problem before it starts with its Pearls program.
Pearls is a small group of girls chosen for different reasons, but with a common goal: focusing on the positive to keep them out of trouble.
"Before I started Pearls, I was really defensive and just ornery sometimes," said Arielle, a member of the group. "I was tense and always mad."
"I lacked self esteem," said another Pearl girl, Tina. "I didn't feel too sure of myself."
Kimberly McLaughlin-Smith created the program because she says she remembers how tough middle school can be. The girls did various exercises to determine the problems, then used their journals to get the feelings out.
Kayla was one of the shyest girls in the program, but after six weeks, she didn't have any problem opening up.
"After Pearls, I was happy and I feel like I am a different person completely," she said.
It's a feeling McLaughlin-Smith hopes stays with the girls.
"Self value and self worth. That's what I want them to take out of the program," she said.
McLaughlin-Smith hopes to eventually expand the program to other schools.