YWCA Our Voice

YWCA?announces new ‘Girls First’ program

Every young woman is capable, smart and strong.

Girls First — a new empowerment program from the YWCA Northcentral PA and Peace in the Port – aims to help teens and tweens, specifically young girls of color, discover their inner strength and become the leaders of tomorrow.

An organizational meeting for Girls First will be held from 2-3:30 p.m. Saturday in the teen area of the James V. Brown Library, 19 E. Fouth St. The meeting is open to all who want to attend and will be a brainstorming session for girls to share what they’d like to explore at the group’s bi-monthly meetings this school year.

A strong female role model will be discussed at the month’s first session. At the next meeting, girls will get hands-on with a related activity such as doing a community service project, taking a cooking class, making art or touring a local college or workplace.

The brains and muscle behind Girls First are Khamila Baines, of Peace in the Port; and Tara Day-Ulrich, Deb Griffin and Kacie Hopkins of the YWCA. Together, these women recognize that young girls in our community need more empowerment opportunities.

After brainstorming and looking at YWCA programs across the country, these driven women easily identified their shared passions and the direction of Girls First: boosting girl’s self-esteem while eliminating racism in our community.

By teaching the Girls First group about women who overcame adversity, students will see that their dreams are within reach. Open discussion, field trips and service projects boost the girl’s self-esteem through new experiences.

Girls First will guide program participants to learn about themselves and develop a system of values leading them to become role models for younger generations.

“Our goal is that program graduates will become peer mentors for new participants,” Day-Ulrich said. “Empowerment isn’t just about teaching someone how to lead, it’s giving them the opportunity to be a leader.”

By boosting self-esteem, Girls First can help prevent assault in schools and the community.

On an individual level, self-esteem can stand up to a bully. On a collective level, it can prevent rape and sexual violence by raising the strength of a community to hold abusers accountable and intervene to protect the innocent.

Providing young women with positive engagement and leadership opportunities outside of school can also reduce the risk of behaviors that might lead to substance abuse, eating disorders, teen pregnancy and self-harm.

Thanks to a grant from the Rotary Club of Williamsport, the dreams of Girl’s First can come true. “This money will be used for field trips, supplies, snacks and other incentives for the participants,” Hopkins said. “We want to do more than just talk to them. We want them to be able to see and experience new things,” Griffin said.

For more information on Girls First, contact Kacie Hopkins at 570-322-4637 ext. 112.

Thompson is the communications and development manager at the YWCA, 815 W. Fourth St. Her column is published on the first Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section.

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