Jun 12, 2017

A Greening Spring

Technology field trip to the Googleplex
Technology field trip to the Googleplex

As we catch our breath for a moment before the start of our 11th consecutive Summer Session, now is a good time to reflect back on our Spring Semester 2017 program. As always, we maintained a lively schedule full of enrichment activities.

But what always takes center stage is our academic support program.  We keep the focus on English language arts and basic math competencies -- the two most powerful factors determining future academic-track middle- and high-school placement and eventual college competitiveness and access for our girls.

With academics so central to our core programming, we and the girls have been fortunate that our stellar volunteer and retired librarian Maureen continued to devote several hours each week to literacy coaching and to connecting girls with the kinds of books and other publications that they relate-to and love. Literacy is, after all, the basis for so much of learning in all other areas, and Maureen's talent for inspiring the girls and keeping their interest through her one-on-one interactions with them is invaluable to us here at g2W.

Although she'll soon be away on maternity leave for awhile, our visiting math specialist Ruth also continued her excellent work last semester. Like Maureen, Ruth didn't just tutor our girls, but also helped our staff and other tutoring volunteers to be better at what they did.

And it paid off.  Again this year our late-elementary girls saw rates of acceptance to academic middle-schools well above those for our district overall.

But the kind of broad-based learning and development that will result in well-educated, aware. productive, engaged women in our community must go beyond  just the basics of academic competency.  In order for girls to meet their full potential as women and as citizens, they must see and challenge the discriminatory gender stereotypes which are still all-too-common in our society.  That's why we put a special focus on Women's History Month last March.  Led by staff and volunteers, activities like 'We Brave Women,' and 'Girl Talk' gave the girls time, space, and information to review gender-based discrimination and to explore the legacy of outstanding women's civil rights leaders through group discussions, journaling, arts projects and biographical studies.

The last Saturday in March saw our 6th Annual Margaret Geis Wright Wellness 5k Run/Walk. A rare non-rainy weekend blessed the event, which highlighted fun, fitness, and healthy lifestyle choices for our community.  It was the perfect counterpoint to all of the deskwork with which our young scholars had been engaged, and served as it has every year as a rallying-point for health & fitness and general community-building.

In April with the rains finally slowing down a bit the girls intensified the gardening program with help from visiting specialist Terry Andre. Ms. Andre brought a comprehensive approach that clarifies the links between health, whole foods, and Earth-friendly farming and gardening. Terry and our cooking teacher Karen Gitter were natural allies in illustrating these connections, using produce which the girls had raised themselves right here at our facility. Additional enrichment activities of-note during April included vocal music classes run by Kari Kirk and various do-it-yourself science explorations facilitated by Angela Chau.

 May saw our Spring Parents' Meeting; these meetings are central to our ability to assess and fine-tune our program.  What we heard this time around from a group representing 2/3rds of participating girls families was a reinforcement of the importance of academic support to them, to their daughters, and hence to us. Parents wanted to be sure that the range of other enrichment activities which we offer would not end up impinging on girls' comprehension and completion of their schoolwork. Point taken, and we couldn't agree more. But parents also made clear that expressive arts such as dance & movement activities, along with time outdoors, should also remain priorities. Also noted, and we were gratified to hear that levels of overall satisfaction with our programming remain quite high among the parents.  One father shared with us at the meeting how his daughter has now caught up two grade-levels' in her reading after having been in a series of other local youth development programs which didn't seem to be able to address her literacy challenges adequately. The dad identified the one-on-one, individualized approach which we take as being the likely reason.  

Parents' feedback and other notes taken during Spring Semester 2017 will, as they always do, be applied to our next semester's programming. We're dedicated to continuous improvement, and are grateful for the high levels of participation which parents and guardians provide to help identify both strengths and weaknesses.

That said, it's time to get back to preparations for Summer Session 2017!  In closing, let us not forget to acknowledge all of you supporters who make the work which we do on behalf of our community's 'low-income but high-potential' girls possible.  If it weren't for you, we wouldn't be here . . . thanks again!

Bridging the digital divide
Bridging the digital divide
Putting healthy habits into practice at the 5K Run
Putting healthy habits into practice at the 5K Run
Doing the math
Doing the math
I grew it myself (with a little help)!
I grew it myself (with a little help)!

Links:

Mar 3, 2017

A Flood Of Winter Activity

Girls whom you're helping: Leilani
Girls whom you're helping: Leilani

A few sunny days are gracing our facility, allowing us to dry out a bit here on the San Francisco Peninsula after one of the rainiest two months anyone can remember.  There's been talk of sowing rice in the marsh which had been the back lawn.

Along with the lengthening days have come a warming-up of activities here at 'g2W' after the flurry of activities ending the Fall Semester and subsequent vacation-time during Holiday Break.

When our girls returned in early January, we got right down to business with a re-focus on basic academics & reestablishing study-habits.  Our literacy & reading volunteer Maureen facilitated love-of-reading activities to keep our girls advancing their English Language Arts skills (given that nearly a third of our girls are English Learners now).  All girls continued to benefit from the provided by Ruth, our Math Expert In-Residence.  Ruth's been with us for going on 2 years now, and the girls, our tutoring volunteers, and staff have all benefited from her skillful tutoring and volunteer tutor-training.

Just one example is 'Begonia,' one of our late-elementary Latina girls, who was unskillfully told to her face by her formal classroom teacher last semester that she just 'didn't get it' about math at her level, and was discouraged from applying to academic-track middle school.  But after her parents, hearing the story from their daughter, contacted us (understandably annoyed, we might add), we teamed up with Ruth, staff, and parents to help Begonia bring her math comprehension and grades up.  Begonia has already improved her math scores significantly, and aims to apply to those academic middle-schools very soon.  We think that she'll be accepted.

Along with academics, we offered, as we always do, broad-spectrum programming in the arts; multiculturalism; health & fitness; empowerment & leadership development; and fun for fun's sake.

With February being Black History Month, we organized a month of programming meant to broaden understanding of 'cultural minorities' at a time when national events are bringing a new focus to questions of race, ethnicity, and culture.

For example, we split girls into groups to discuss different topics about Blackness (and, by extension, being Of-Color generally). Our younger girls (ages 6-9) watched Disney’s Princess and The Frog (the protagonist, 'Tiana,' is the first Black cartoon princess). After watching the movie, they examined how her storyline is different than those of other, non-Black, 'princesses' or depictions of young woman-ness in popular culture.

Our middle and older girls (ages 10-13) read a story from Fannie Moore, a Black woman, who was born a slave. For this activity, middle- and older girls were asked to read and then address a set of discussion questions. In addition to that, we asked them to create a secret coded letter such as those composed by escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad. These exercises allowed our girls to analyze and feel viscerally how much sacrifice and love went into winning one's freedom, keeping a Black family together, and sheer survival at that time . .

On a somewhat lighter note, other February activities included extensive computer lab time to help our girls get over the 'digital divide' that can leave low-income kids with less information technology familiarity and skills even here on the northern edge of the Silicon Valley. Our staff also facilitated arts activities, where the girls created a variety of Valentine's Day items to share (our girls being mostly so young) with friends and family. As winter storms kept outdoor activities somewhat curtailed, we also took the opportunity to emphasize cooking for good nutrition as a key pillar of lifelong health. Our in-house culinary instructor Karen taught a series of recipes which include vegetables that the girls can grow here or at home --  or example, the girls had the satisfaction of making salads with the winter vegetables which they'd grown here at g2W.  Gardening teacher Terry also imparted information on correct cultivation, which the girls hope to put into practice when things dry out enough for them to get out and do some gardening! 

On the subject of health, we're planning our 6th Annual Margaret Wright 5K Wellness Run/Walk for the end of March. The event has grown into a community institution which motivates a population at-risk for chronic health outcomes to focus on fun, fitness, health, and the outdoors.  Now if only the rain will hold off on March 25th . . .

And of course our academic support activities continue. Planning on that score is going into our forthcoming Summer Session 2017 (our 11th consecutive) already.  With sufficient funding, we hope to bring local academic support nonprofit group ALearn on board for a math intensive segment that will boost math comprehension and future academic options for our relatively large proportion of middle-school girls. 

That just about brings us up to the present.  Let us express our thanks to all of you -- donors, volunteers, parents, staff, and community partners -- who make 'g2W's' programming possible.  It's a community thing that wouldn't exist without all that you do to 'support our girls as they design their futures for successful womanhood.'

Girls whom you're helping: Selijah
Girls whom you're helping: Selijah
Girls whom you're helping: Amber
Girls whom you're helping: Amber

Links:

Nov 28, 2016

Falling Into The New School Year

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

Links:

 
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