Here at g2W, it is the linkage of our in-house expertise with the special talents and resources of community partners that gives our Summer Sessions the depth and variety that we believe is key to the best youth programming.
Kids respond to options. When there are opportunities to explore a variety of experiences, modes of expression, and topics, there are sure to be one or more program elements with which a young person can engage with her whole being, in a way that makes her want to challenge her boundaries.
We like to think that our Summer Session 2015 did that for our 39 participating low-income girls ages 6-14.
Sixth-grader Nora (not her real name), for example, entered Summer Session with enthusiasm for our creative writing workshop series, offered again this year in conjunction with the Leyla Beban Young Authors' Foundtion, but with an aversion to computers. As her enthusiasm for getting her story ideas into written form progressed through the series however, her reluctance to confront word-processing gave way to recognition that it could greatly speed up the laborious handwriting, erasing, and re-writing process which she'd started with. After just 2 days, Juanita took it upon herself to practice and get help with the keyboard -- and by the end of the week she was well on her way to being a ten-fingered typist and onscreen wordsmith!
Returning to a more general view of the girls' summer, there were a series of limited-duration specialty activities, tailored for our 3 different age-sets, in a context of regular daily or weekly activities over the 5 days/week, 6-week term.
Many of our girls have had quite limited exposure to nature, science, and just plain fun venues outside of their immediate communities. Field trips are a central and ever-popular part of our Summer Sessions, and 2015 was no exception:
Our action-packed summers incorporate the specialized activities above into a range of more regular sports & fitness, literacy, crafts, STEM-related learning. Summer Session 2015 continued the winning formula which we'ce developed over our previous 8 Summer Sessions
In addition, we provided nutritional support in the form of two snacks and lunch on a daily basis. The presence of interns recruited from among older middle-school girls who'd been through our program, along with parental, collegiate, and service-organization volunteers helped to keep the staff:participant ratio close to an ideal 1:4.
Based on the semiannual surveys which we've administered to our young participants and their parents, Summer Session 2015 met the mutually reenforcing objectives of:
We mentioned Nora's story. But there were many others. In fact, if we do say so, every girl whom we served found activities that helped her to call forth her own potential and make use of it. Providing a place where that can happen is so much of what we're all about here at Girls To Women.
Thanks as always for the support of all of you GlobalGiving donors! You are helping to bring a unique and, we feel, valuable program to East Palo Alto's 'low-income but high-potential' girls.
Learning through mentorship, and leveraging regional expertise and resources, is central to how Girls To Women operates. It's cost-effective, locally-relevant, supportive. And we see how girls light up when high-achieving, culturally-reflective women give them the attention and encouragement which they and all children deserve. Experience has shown us that the nature and quality of relationships motivates learning, and the directions which young people take, as much as any other factor one could name.
That said, we're having a lively Spring 2015 Semester here at 'g2W.'
Early in the term, we welcomed a group of prominent Silicon Valley women of-color to our facility. Our distinguished guests included Lisa Jackson, former US EPA Administrator and Apple Computers' Vice President for Environmental Initiatives, along with Apple's Global Energy Supply Manager, Ranjana Ninan. Girls were a little awed by our guests, and listened with rapt attention while Lisa and Ranjana described how Apple is working to source and use more renewable energy, develop energy-efficiency products, and advance 'clean-tech' and 'green-tech.'
Ranjana then led the girls in construction of their own miniature solar power stations, and our future scientists were amazed at how a shaft of sunlight could run a small motor, play digital music, or operate a calculator through the palm-sized units which they'd built. We couldn't have imagined a better way to turn girls on to Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) learning.
We've always had STEM-related activities at g2W, whether it's been trips to Chabot Space & Science Center, sending middle-school girls to the annual Expanding Your Horizons Math & Science conference at nearby Skyline College, or running various STEM-based programming, such as TechBridge, onsite. And why not . . . Silicon Valley is projecting a shortage of technology professionals over the next decade or so, where, despite progress, women of color remain underrepresented in the workforce.
We also believe that successful learning and development can't all be between the ears . . . girls need to complement scholastic development with health and fitness. That's why in 2012 we first honored one of our own organizational mentors, Mari Wright, with a community-based 5K health and fitness fun-run at the adjacent East Palo Alto Baylands open space area and park. March of this year saw our 4th Annual event, with hundreds of local residents, local and regional elected officials, business sponsors, and general community participation. The 'run-up' to the event provided a focus for programming and lessons on good nutrition, exercise, the value of outdoor time, and healthy lifestyle choices generally with the girls and their families. It just makes sense that a healthy body and a mind that is ready and capable of learning go together.
Here mid-Semester, our academic support program is in full swing; the current version of our math tutoring program which we began last fall (and reported on in our previous update) has worked out very well indeed. We're pleased with student, parental, and classroom teacher feedback, and on the jump in comprehension and math scores which our youthful scholars are exhibiting in response. The girls who go on to engineering and other STEM-related disciplines will need strong math skills, and we're laying the best foundation which we can for them.
Meanwhile, it isn't too early to begin planning for our 9th Consecutive Summer Session. Staff, Board Members, and Volunteers are already at it. Partial funding for Summer 2015 is secured but we're depending on our generous individual donors to help make up the difference between now and late June.
Thanks to all of our GlobalGiving donors for your support. We couldn't do it without you!
The numbers don't lie -- hiring a part-time math tutor, recruiting tutoring volunteers with math backgrounds, and investing in related learning materials is improving our girls' quantitative reasoning and math skills. Parents, classroom teachers, our staff, and not least our 35 regular School Year Program girls ages 6-14 all say the same thing, and everyone involved seem pleased with the results. We hope that we don't sound like we're exaggerating . . . it is just we are proud of what the new emphasis on math tutoring has wrought since we retained a specialist to ramp-up the math tutoring module.
Yes, Gibberleh -- our staff math tutor and seasoned classroom teacher, will sit down at the work table and assist girls wrestling with everything from simple addition to algebra during her regular Tuesday and Thursday afternoon visits. But she's also got a number of tricks up her sleeve for getting girls to think and do math. She has them reciting their multiplication tables while double-dutch jumproping, inciting friendly competition through match quizzes and games, and augmenting her lessons wih online tutorials which are deceptively 'fun' while imparting quantitative reasoning skills.
It doesn't hurt that we also have Malthusiana Ramos, who is on a STEM-educator track at the local community college, for our lead math tutoring volunteer. She, along with Gibberleh, not only tutors the girls directly, but coaches our other general homework assistance tutoring volunteers from nearby Eastside College Preparatory School in effective tutoring methods. Finally, we have two adult academic support volunteers recruited through our logistical and financial supporter the One World Children's Fund.
One of Malthusiana and Gibberleh's star math pupils is Pokeeka Cervantes, who's been attending Girls to Women since 2013. Upon arrival as a 3rd grader, Pokeeka's arithmetic skills were clearly a good 2 years below grade-level. But soon after beginning with us, she rather forthrightly announced her intention to improve in her math skills. Pokeeka 'walked her talk' and took the initiative to seek out Gibberleh, Malthusiana, and the Eastside College Preparatory volunteer tutors every afternoon she attended (usually 3 afternoons a week) and not only to ask about specific problems, but to get advice on exercises and drills that would help her develop her background understanding. Now, as a 5th grader, Pokeeka has mastered long division and is consistently scoring in the top of her class. We applaud Pokeeka, and see her as an example of what girls anywhere will do when they sense that they are in a supportive, positive environment.
Along with math, English language arts and literacy is the other major tutorial need area. We've always approached literacy tutoring from the love-of-reading angle as great way to inspire the focus and enthusiasm needed to help youth to develop this bedrock skill-set. In that spirit our staff, with the support of volunteers and parents, have worked with the girls to start 2 book clubs: One for the mid-to-late elementary girls, and one for the middle-school group. The reading list is one which girls choose among themselves, augmented with titles from program staff. Each group are sequentially reading and discussing each book in their selected series each Friday afternoon. This 'lighter' but still-focused approach works well with the weekend mentality which girls have on Fridays -- there's no homework due the next day, so the 'low-pressure' fun aspect of reading is offered at the most auspicious time of the week.
The younger girls, though generally not ready for a book club just yet, aren't neglected, but benefit from 'Story Time (read-to by staff and volunteers),' read-aloud exercises, and spelling and word-recognition activities. We encourage parental participation in academic support at all levels, but one of the easiest and frankly, most family-bonding methods is for parents to simply read and be read-to alongside their early-elementary children. Twenty-five percent more parents say that they are reading regularly to their younger daughters now than 18 months ago, according to our semiannual parental surveys.