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:

Dec 17, 2015

Healthy Holidays and Robust Role-Models

Our girls were thrilled to meet Hillary Clinton
Our girls were thrilled to meet Hillary Clinton

As those of you generous donors who have kept up on our programming know, we strive to provide a broad-spectrum approach to youth development that nourishes all the many facets of growth in our girls -- artistic, academic, nutritional, professional, & emotional/inner life . . . if we do say so ourselves, we think that we outdid ourselves during the Fall 2015 Semester School Year Program.

Over the past 4 months, our girls had exciting field trips, met with the woman who may be our next President, participated in workshops on healthy diet and recipes; developed new artistic and STEM skills, and revelled in autumnal holiday parties, while also challenging themselves to grow academically.

For example, in September we hosted Bay Area author & educator Katherine Cepeda, who read from her children's book about good nutrition and led a presentation and discussion on what makes a healthy diet.  Obesity is a serious health problem which threatens many of the low-income families whom we serve, and we believe that having a culturally-reflective woman provide accessible, relevant information about it increased its impact.

October was quite a lively month at 'G2W.'

  • Our community partners at Los Altos Methodist Church underwrote the cost of a field trip to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Thirty girls rode the carousel, played, gasped at the bridge, which many had heard of but not yet seen, and to top it all off, watched the Blue Angels fly over the bay from their vantage point on the Marin County side! Judging by the responses of the girls and their discussions for days afterwards, it was certainly a fun day! 
  •  In collaboration with The Palo Alto Art Center, artist-in-residence Karen Gitter brought the final component of her 6 month-long Creative Ecology project blending nature and art to our girls in the form of a silk painting workshop. Each girl painted her own silk square that was put into a community quilt and is now on display at the Art Center. 
  • Not content to lead artistic explorations with our girls, dedicated g2W volunteer Karen Gitter has continued our nutritional education activities with a biweekly cooking class and nutritional education series beginning in October.  For every meal, Karen reviewed her choices of ingredients and their virtues, and got everyone down to business making a range of tempting, healthful items.  We've since heard that our girls have taken their recipes and their newfound knowledge home to begin building better community health from within their own families!
  • At the end of the month the girls eagerly put on their best costumes and joined our Halloween Party. About this time the girls also had a cultural lesson in the form of learning about Dia de los Muertos and making an altar to memorialize loved ones who have passed on. 

As the political life of the country warms up in anticipation of the 2016 presidential elections, we were offered in November the opportunity to have some of the girls meet Hillary Clinton on one of her Peninsula campaign stops. Six of our girls prepared by learning about Ms. Clinton and her accomplishments as a senator, Secretary of State, and First lady.  We followed-up with group conversations about gender and political office, and the significance of a woman as a presidential front-runner. The girls who met Ms. Clinton were positively electric with excitement, awe, and inspiration.  As the famous bumper-sticker puts it, 'A woman's place is in The House . . . and in The Senate.' Why not the White House?  Regardless of opinions on Hillary Clinton as a candidate, it was the point about gender equity and opportunity in politics which we wanted to make, and which was clearly taken to heart by the girls who met her. November also saw Girls to Women begin another year's partnership with MAGIC (More Active Girls In Computing), an organization that brings high-achieving women in Information Technology together with middle-school girls to work on individualized STEM projects over the course of a semester. We are excited to see these relationships build as the girls taking part build towards their final projects.

 Needless to say, our academic support activities and other more mundane but important parts of our program also continued during this time (please see previous reports).  Girls buckled down here in December for the major class reports and tests which the end of each semester brings.  We're proud of the progress with literacy, science, math, and other subjects which the girls we serve are making.  We can't do it without the parents, and in fact parental feedback and collaboration on studies at home are key to most girls' success in school.  But even so, girls need a balance of activities in order to truly thrive.  In that spirit, we had our annual Holiday Party earlier this month.  Girls, their parents, and other family members joined our staff, volunteers, donors, and other supporters to bring some light and cheer into these short winter days.

On that note, Happy Holidays to you from all of us at Girls To Women!  We depend on the generosity of donors large, medium, and small to meet our mission.  Thanks again, as always.

Girls went all out on those Halloween costumes!
Girls went all out on those Halloween costumes!
Karen and girls work up healthy kitchen treasures
Karen and girls work up healthy kitchen treasures
Girls all agog on the Golden Gate Bridge
Girls all agog on the Golden Gate Bridge
Santa & Mrs. Klaus joined our Holiday Party!
Santa & Mrs. Klaus joined our Holiday Party!

Links:

 
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