Girls to Women

To support girls as they design their futures for successful womanhood.
Nov 28, 2016

Falling Into The New School Year

Four girls whom you
Four girls whom you're helping -- Genesis

Our 10TH YEAR of continuous service (where did the years go?) is now close to completion, as Fall Semester 2016 enters its final weeks. We're glad to report-back about the new wrinkles on learning & enrichment activities which we offered this fall -- new activities, but based on enduring themes which support the broad-spectrum academic and social development of girls in our community.

In a popular activity which connects science learning, restorative time outdoors, and health, we reactivated our weekly School Year Gardening Sessions, headed by knowledgeable volunteer Terry Andres. Every Friday from 3:30-4:30pm, Terry has been out with more than 20 of our girls, instilling practical lessons in biology, nutrition, and Earth-friendly approaches to farming & gardening while literally setting the seeds for a harvest and related learning module next semester. Thanks again Terry!

 Few of us need much convincing any more about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (aka 'STEM') learning to our digital-information society.  That, and the growing number of careers based on STEM knowledge.  With help from Angela, our technophile-in-residence, 12 late-elementary and middle-school girls have been participating in weekly explorations of 'Science & STEM.'  Each Wednesday afternoon, Angela introduces these girls to forthright, attention-getting demonstrations and experiments designed to grab their interest, prove important points about STEM principles, and to get girls thinking about related careers. Here on the edge of the Silicon Valley, the demand for a professional-level technological workforce is expected to exceed supply for some years, and we want our girls to be in a position to take advantage of such promising career pathways (see weblink #1, below).

Holidays provide a convenient organizing principle for activities (see weblink #3, below) and November saw preparations for our 'Mathgiving Math Bee,' run by staff person Vanessa.  The activity was of course conceived as a fun way to spur math development through healthy rivalry amongst the girls (see weblink #2, below). As we often do, we arranged version of the activity for each our 3 age-levels: Early-elementary, middle-elementary, and late-elementary/middle school. We had 100% participation, and girls began practicing their math skills weeks ahead; we were happy to see interest and involvement from girls' parents and families.  Each age-group awarded their winners and finalists, and girls excitedly shared with staff, volunteers, and each other about how they were going to be even more ready for the next one -- music to our ears!

With an inspiring visit from Hillary Clinton not much more than a year past, we thought that this November of all Novembers would be a good time for a civics lesson in electoral politics.  Accordingly, staffperson Vanessa took it upon herself to prepare a 'Presidential Race 2016' which introduced all of our girls to the electoral process and to their place in a democracy.  Half our girls chose to paticipate, either as 'candidates' or 'delegates.'  Each candidate wrote a speech a week in advance, practiced it daily, and delivered it in front of all the girls for the 'Election' on November 17th. Subsequently, girls have expressed interest in running for elected Student Council or similar offices at their schools or youth organizations, and have worked with staff to prepare their candidacies. 

Speaking of holidays, Halloween is of course always so popular with the young, and provides yet another theme around which to organize activities. This year we devised a 'Spooktacular Spelling Bee' for October 31st. As in the Mathgiving Math Bee which followed, our staff and volunteers got the girls organized by their 3 age-levels, and had them practicing as a group weeks ahead of time. A friendly competitive atmosphere grew, and the event itself was much anticipated by the girls, not to mention their parents, some of whom were able to attend and cheer on their daughters!  Much-coveted awards and prizes were handed out to the top finishers in each of the age-divisions, and all 27 of our Fall Semester 2016 participants took part.  Given the enthusiasm displayed this year, we are certainly planning to continue this fun and effective way to get our girls reading and spelling correctly (again see weblinks #2 & #3, following)!   

 Along the way, our regular academic support and other developmental programming operated each weekday afternoon.  The mentorship and homework assistance provided by our stellar tutoring volunteers is invaluable -- inspiring to the girls, and helping to build confidence, high self-expectation, and good character along with academic learning.

Let us close by acknowledging that our programming and its promise to provide a place where 'girls create bright futures' also depends on you -- our generous, insightful, dedicated donors.  We've said it before and we'll say it again: We just couldn't do it without you. 

It's as simple - and as profound - as that.

                                           * Thanks again and Happy Holidays to all! *

Four girls whom you
Four girls whom you're helping -- Chionna
Four girls whom you
Four girls whom you're helping - Jennifer
Four girls whom you
Four girls whom you're helping - Katy

Links:

Aug 23, 2016

Springing Into Summer Session 2016

Worn out after a lively soccer game
Worn out after a lively soccer game

The last Quarter was, as it always is, a very lively time at 'g2W' because we transition through end-of-schoolyear right into a full-time, 6-week Summer Session.  This year's, at 48 program recipient families, was our second-largest ever in 10 years. Thanks again to all of our institutional AND individual donors for helping to make broad-spectrum services for a culturally-diverse & low-income constituency possible.

So what are these services?  They include:

Math Tutoring -- We retained our twice-weekly sessions with math tutor Ruth Lang throughout School Year 2015-2016. During her 4 to 6 weekly hours, Ruth helped students in grades 1 to 8 with everything from simple arithmetic to algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. She also coached our volunteer high-school and collegiate tutors, significantly increasing their effectiveness. 

 Literacy -- A good 50% of our tutoring effort went into enhancing the English language skills of our girls and for good reason -- better learning in all other areas! But that's not all. We've always emphasized the importance of literacy not only as a core learning prerequisite, but also for the life-enriching dimensions brought forth by written self-expression and appreciation of literature. We serve a population that grew during the Grant Period from 20% to now close to 1/3rd English Learners.

STEM Learning -- Three of our middle-school girls completed our 2.5 years' partnership with More Active Girls In Computing (MAGIC) a Silicon Valley-based youth service group which matches early-adolescent girls with IT professional women for a variety of projects ranging from hardware functions to programming. This project complemented the basic computer literacy activities that every girl in our program engages in, with the support of our staff and volunteers.

For both School Year and Summer Session participants, our on-site computer lab was available with 5 desktop workstations, wireless internet capacity, and 4 laptops. Girls quickly got acquainted with these resources, since most had some computer access and training either at school, at local public libraries, or at home (under 15% of our participating families have a computer in the home however). Girls were of course supervised as to online content, but otherwise used the computer lab for everything from math practice to digital arts. An emphasis area going forward will be computer programming-related activities for middle-school girls. Not only are the number of programming-related employment positions projected to increase over the next several years, but a shortage in qualified professionals is also forecast; disproportionately-so for women of-color.

Women's History Month in March triggered workshops in online research for the ages 9 and up girls to help them complete their biographical presentations on their chosen Great Woman of History. Our staff-person Larissa Banks led these workshops, and we found the girls to be eager scholars and researchers.  Once again, we're convinced of the value of positve role-models and mentoring . . . and we'll continue to connect our girls with such 'human resources.'

Earth Day 2016 in late April provided a focal point for a month-long investigation into environmental science. Related learning included sustainable agriculture; conservation of sensitive species in the nearby East Palo Alto Baylands; hydrology and the water cycle; climate destabilization & renewable energy alternatives.

Moving from literacy to the arts, we're pleased to report that celebrated local working artist Judy Gittlesohn once again led individual and group arts activities for our girls.  They looked forward to the two-hour sessions which Judy led each Wednesday during the school year and during Summer Session 2016.  Judy has a real gift for nurturing arts appreciation and skills in young people, and we couldn't have been happier to have her back last spring. The contributions of GlobalGiving donors help to make Judy's and other arts programming available for our girls, and thanks to you all for that -- in our view, hands-on arts education is so valuable for optimum emotional and creative growth of youth.

During the recently-completed Summer Session 2016, our very dedicated program volunteer and engineering student Angela developed and delivered a remarkably complete series of introductory build-it-and-test-it exercises for the girls with age-appropriate versions, consisting of the following elements: 1. Potential and kinetic energy principles through the 'Marble Roller-Coaster.' 2. Buoyancy and aquatic engineering, through 'Design A Boat Challenge.' 3. Chromatography, dispersion, and color-separation through 'Chromatography Flowers.' 4. Basic chemistry through 'Volcanic Eruptions!' 

Our Founder-Director Pat Foster was San Mateo County's Assembly Woman of the Year for 20216.  Pat didn’t rest on her laurels for long however, but got to work mobilizing staff, volunteers, and donors to help g2W meet the 2016 year’s Silicon Valley Gives Matching Grant Challenge, our third consecutive. This year’s challenge was $20,000, which we were able to meet by the Challenge deadline on May 4th. Including donors’ generous matching contributions, that’s $40,000 we didn’t have before to help fund Summer Session 2016. Speaking of that, the number of applications for this coming Summer Session – our 10th consecutive -- were the most we’d ever received.

 We’ve been getting requests from young community women in the post-secondary school ‘Transition-Age Youth’ range for focused programming for a few years now. Beginning in April, Marissa conferred with our former Program Director Natalie Seer and longtime multi-talented g2W ally and progressive educator Lakiba Pittman to come up with a support group-oriented program structure. After holding a focus-group series with likely program participants, we launched our first Young Women’s Support Group session earlier this month. Issues include employment/discrimination; financial literacy in an era of rapidly-escalating housing prices; balancing work/life issues; health; and social justice involvement. We look forward to having more to share from this project in the near future.


 We're always looking forward with and for our girls and families whom we serve.  Thanks as always to all of you who help to make our work with them possible.  It's the steadier support of online and individual donors which helps to stabilize an organization operationally between large project grants or contracts.

Yours In Community,

Girls To Women
 

Taking her geography lesson lying down
Taking her geography lesson lying down
How she feels about violence in her community
How she feels about violence in her community
Getting her message across
Getting her message across
Mar 25, 2016

Kindling The Love of Reading

Bridging the Digital Divide for low-income girls
Bridging the Digital Divide for low-income girls

Especially here in the Silicon Valley, we think it's only right that the girls we serve have access to learning advantages which 21st Century information technology provides.  Mobile IT devices, for example, make it easier than ever for girls to take digital information and lessons with them. 

But with most of our girls' families being low-income or even below-poverty, they generally can't afford late-model desktop computers in the home, let alone mobile IT devices for their girls.  Girls To Women seeks to bridge the 'digital divide' which exists for under-resourced community members by providing IT resources. We've upgraded our computer lab several times in our 9 years, and Girls To Women now has a dozen desktops and laptops, along with a WiFi system featuring wireless printers, cloud-based backup, and high-speed internet.

Thanks to a generous young donor and a savvy volunteer, we're about to expand IT capacity yet again.

Maureen, a retired librarian, already contributes her time and expertise to supporting girls' literacy. Maureen comes in every Tuesday for two hours, and works with each of our girls to develop individualized book lists that take into account their reading-levels and interests.

Meanwhile, Dani, the donor whom we mentioned, is showing philanthropic tendencies at a young age -- she's pledged all gifts from friends and family in honor of her upcoming Bat Mitsvah to Girls To Women!  What this means is that we can afford to acquire enough Amazon Kindles so that every girl in our program can have one to use for as long as she's with us. 

Maureen has responded by putting her digital librarian chops to work setting up a system where the girls can check-out e-books from local public libraries onto their Kindles.  Girls can do this either when they visit the library, or remotely from libraries' websites -- convenient, quick, and easy (see weblink)!  The light, portable digital format makes literature that much more accessible and "cooler."  Given how popular IT devices are with young people and for that matter just about everyone these days, we think that this will be yet another effective tool for our academic support & literacy programming.

Moving from literacy to the arts, we're pleased to report that celebrated local working artist Judy Gittlesohn is once again leading individual and group arts activities for our girls.  They look forward to the two-hour sessions which Judy leads each Wednesday.  Judy has a real gift for nurturing arts appreciation and skills in young people, and we couldn't be happier to have her back this spring. The contributions of GlobalGiving donors help to make Judy's and other arts programming available for our girls, and thanks to you all for that -- in our view, hands-on arts education is so valuable for optimum emotional and creative growth of youth (see weblink).

On the arts tip, the 'Words of Wisdom' group arts project which our girls completed during Summer Session 2015 is now on display at Cafe Zoe in nearby Menlo Park.  The display shows student artwork from young people ages 6-19, who participated in an international photography exchange, where they explored the meaning of wisdom and the impact it has on each of their lives. Through photography, creative writing and book making, students created self-portraits and their own words of wisdom to share with each other, their community, and young people from different cultures. Words of Wisdom is a collaboration between nonprofit youth development organizations Girls to Women, Streetside Stories, and One Bird.

While we're working on supporting girls' literacy and artistic development, we don't neglect the physical.  Low-income communities like the one we serve are at higher-risk for health challenges brought on by substandard dietary and lifestyle choices, and perhaps even more so by limited access to healthy alternatives.  We try to address that through a number of program elements ranging from vegetable gardening to healthy cooking and nutritional education, to movement and sports activities that make getting exercise fun.  And just this March we completed our 5th Annual Mari Wright Community 5K Fun Run & Fitness Event at one of our local regional shoreline parks.  The Fun Run culminates weeks of learning and activities around the benefits of fitness and healthy lifestyle. 

Judging by the smiles on the faces of our girls, friends, family, and community participants, the message was enthusiastically received!! 

Finally, we just learned that our Founder-Director Patricia Foster has been named the California Woman of the Year for our 24th State Assembly District.  Thanks to Assemblymember Rich Gordon for the nomination, and -- if we do say so ourselves -- congratulations Pat and well-deserved too (see weblink)!

Exploring creative horizons
Exploring creative horizons
We teach about good nutrition by growing it onsite
We teach about good nutrition by growing it onsite
Our 5th Annual community Fun Run takes off!
Our 5th Annual community Fun Run takes off!

Links:

 
   

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