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Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls

by Girls to Women
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Academic Support & Mentoring for Underserved Girls
Gearing Up For A Family Hike
Gearing Up For A Family Hike

We seem to be hitting our stride with our new decentralized program delivery model, which has been in operation for about 14 months now. Local East Palo Alto youth-serving organizations are natural partners for our services for girls and young women, and Oxford Day Academy, Phoenix Academy, and College Track have hosted g2W activities for over a year now.

Thirty girls this spring completed the 9-week digital photography workshop series taught by Oakland artist and arts educator Van Nguyen Stone -- 20 at Oxford and 10 more at Phoenix. As-always, the theme was explorations of gender stereotypes, identity, and self-expression through personally-crafted images. Girls from low-income and immigrant backgrounds benefit from encouragement to look at presumed gender roles, explore how they affect lives, and to make their own decisions.

Our longtime ally and education professional Lakiba Pittman continued her Mindfulness training series with middle- and high-school girls at College Track. Nine young women completing the 12-weekly sessions. Our evaluations tell us that participants feela  greater sense perspective, attention-span, and non-reactive responses to challenging situations, with less chronic anxiety and helplessness in the face of negative emotions and conflicts.

We're proud to mention that our illustrious Founder/Director Pat Foster has been recognized with a Local Hero award from the Mid-Peninsula Media Center. Coupled with her Jefferson Award from last year, we're delighted to see Ms. Foster being recognized for many decades of service to local disadvantaged youth and their families again lately.

While we are still looking for a more permanent (affordable) program facility for g2W, we did find a local church hall to site this year's 6-week Summer Session. We hope that's a sign that a suitable long-term space will present itself as our search and word in the community about it continue.

Our monthly Family Hikes series has started quite popularly, with over 50 local families with girls ages 6-18 having participated in 3 hikes -- to Rancho San Antonio Preserve & Deer Hollow Farm, Pichetti Ranch Preserve, and Skyline Ridge in the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space parks system. The hikes' role in supporting stronger family ties, good physical health, and more positive attitudes make the effort well worthwhile. Our partners Latinx Outdoors and the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District are equally pleased with the strong start to this new collaborative program.

In the meantime, rest assured that our lean, mean (well, not really) but efficient new operation stretches every dollar. The dollars which you donors invest in our work is, as it always has been, key to our ability to serve. Thanks now -- and every time!

The girls didn
The girls didn't chicken out at Deer Hollow Farm
Many girls have had limited contact with nature
Many girls have had limited contact with nature

Links:

Director Pat Foster wins a 2019 Jefferson Award.
Director Pat Foster wins a 2019 Jefferson Award.

 Hello supporters far and wide; and welcome to our first report of 2019.

With nine months’ experience running programs under our new model to inform us, we began the first months of this year continuing activities adapted and/or piloted during 2018: 

  • Monthly parent workshops with representation of up to 15 families at any one meeting;
  • Arts programming suggested by the older girls’ Leadership Group;
  • Digital photography and storytelling for 40 high school participants;
  • Weekly mindfulness training/stress-reduction learning for 30 with Lakiba Pittman;
  • Transition-age Women’s support group with over three dozen participants on the mailing list;
  • Fitness & health activities’ literal run-up to our 8th Annual Margaret Wright Wellness 5K Fun & Fitness Walk/Run.

At the end of January, our programming got a lift when Girls To Women and our Founder/Director Patricia Foster received a Jefferson Award from CBS Bay Area. Showcased was the 'My Story, Your Story' digital photography and storytelling program.  Congratulations to all the young women who created thought-provoking art pieces with a message!

Our 8th Annual Mari Wright Fitness & Fun Run wrapped up duly soaked in the showers so typical of this winter’ weather, back on the first Saturday of this month. While downpours didn’t allow the event’s largest-ever turnout or number of dollars raised, what was clear were the roots that The Run had put down in our community since the first one in 2012. State Assemblyman Mark Berman provided an inspirational pep talk, and contestants included no less than 30 who are in-recovery with the support of local substance abuse treatment & advocacy agency Free At Last.

In the wake of the Fun Run and all that went into it, this might be a good time for us to give a shout-out to our current Community Partners:

Oxford Day Academy, East Palo Alto – Serves as a site facility for programming which we organize.

College Track, East Palo Alto – Like Oxford Day Academy, it also serves as a site facility for programming which we organize.

City of Menlo Park’s Recreation ProgramProvides low-cost structured summer youth activities.

Castilleja SchoolFun Run volunteers.

Stanford University – Another source of academic support tutors and mentors.

Second Harvest Food Bank – nutritional support and volunteers.

Eastside College Preparatory – culturally- reflective young academic

StreetCode Academy - Information-Technology learning for middle school girls.

Oxford Day Academy, East Palo Alto – Serves as a site facility for programming which we organize.

 It has been a challenge shifting quickly from mainly in-house programming to a decentralized model, with activities staged in multiple community venues. But we have learned even more about how to find and leverage community resources, invoke good will, and partner with local residents who have the skill and the will to give back to our young people.

Our Organizational Budget is now close to $75,000 less than anticipated in early 2018, with two employees rather than five doing more in the way of community engagement, program scheduling, and coordinating, and less of program delivery and onsite logistics. Sarah Hoffman continues to work beside Patricia as she has for nearly two years, as Programs Coordinator.

 And now it seems, we will have a roof over our heads, what with new program space in the offing -- after nearly a year without one. There's a large hall not far from our previous HQ in East Palo Alto which we hope to soon be occupying for our Summer Session 2019 if not for longer.

 Reflecting upon the past year, we're reminded of the adage: 'Adapt or perish.' We have adapted, while keeping programming for our 'low-income but high-potential' girls and young women. This 'we' includes all of you who contribute your dollars, hours, expertise, or in-kind items to The Cause.  Let us close by saying Happy Spring, and Thanks for your support!!

A recent support group meet-up for young women
A recent support group meet-up for young women
Young artists at the Jefferson Award media event
Young artists at the Jefferson Award media event
A young finisher at our annual Fun & Fitness Run
A young finisher at our annual Fun & Fitness Run

Links:

The Wellness Run/Walk is
The Wellness Run/Walk is 'cool' to local girls

Dear Supporters,

In keeping with our new approach as a producer of after-school programming for our community's girls in multiple public-serving locations around East Palo Alto, we maintained the program elements launched at the end of the 2017 Summer Session, while developing promising new activities.

The 60 girls and their parents/guardians currently participating continued to deliver encouraging responses to our:

  • Digital photography explorations with Bay Area artist Van Nguyen Stone;
  • Mindfulness/stress reduction practice classes with Lakiba Pittman;
  • Transition-age young women's support-group;
  • Fitness & health activities related to our now 8th Annual Margaret Wright  Wellness 5K Run/Walk.

Speaking of parents, we hosted in early November a relaxed focus-group session with representative families. What we learned was:

  • Parents wanted more parenting skills and related info workshops;
  • Girls wanted to form a Leadership Group of older participants to have a say in programming.

We have adopted both of these suggestions. The new activities which are coming on line for the new year include:

  • A practical nutrition course starting in February, adapting the 'Leah's Pantry' curriculum (& see weblinks, following) for local  parents, educators, other youth-serving professionals, & adults generally. Whole Foods  is donating the groceries for this hands-on series;
  • The Leadership Group has had input on and approved a new maskmaking art class for middle- and high-school participants, offered again by Digital Photography leader Van Nguyen Stone, to be held at College Track for 90 minutes a week, 9 weeks;
  • The popular Digital Photography, Mindfulness, and Young Women's Support-Group activities will continue, with not one but two more Photography classes for an additional 25 girls added at Phoenix Academy!

At this point we continue to deliver quality summer and after-school programming, while dealing with the physical facility displacement brought on by the stratospheric spike in real estate values, facility rental costs, and the overall cost-of-living experienced by East Palo Alto and indeed the entire Silicon Valley area.

On the other hand, our Organizational Budget is now close to $75,000 less than anticipated, and we will see lower occupancy and personnel costs with our shift to a decentralized model and collaborations on community facilities for the time being.

In a time of societal change and transition, we're seeking to provide key elements related to our community's girls well-being and positive development, elements that our stretched public school systems cannot always bring to  bear.

And we wouldn't want to say that without a warm 'Thank You' and 'Season's Greetings' from staff, board, partners -- all of us at g2W -- to the generous donors like you who do so much to make it all possible. Now, when we are reconfiguring as an organization even while continuing to deliver enrichment programming for underrepresented girls in our community, the support and trust which our individual and institutional donors show in us is both encouraging and necessary.

Digital Arts Photography Statement
Digital Arts Photography Statement
Mindfulness practice is growing in society
Mindfulness practice is growing in society

Links:

StreetCode
StreetCode's Makerspace Electronics Class

Summer Session 2018 began with a major challenge to our ability to improvise! For several years g2W shared a spacious corner-lot property in East Palo Alto with sister social services nonprofit Family Connections, but in May – about 6 weeks before the start of Summer Session -- Family Connections decided against renewing its portion of the lease. We weren’t able to carry the entire cost on our own, but fortunately, we retain program space at the site, albeit considerably reduced in square footage. And our supporters probably don’t need to be told what has transpired on The Peninsula over the past decade with respect to skyrocketing property values & rents, intense competition for anything with a roof on it, and the impacts of same on local community-based organizations.

 For the same reason, retaining regular staff at the wages which we can afford has become literally untenable, as lower-income folks are finding it necessary to move to the margins of the Bay Area or the Central Valley, in communities like Antioch, Stockton, and Tracy.

Our indefatigable Founder/Director Patricia Foster nevertheless has persevered, lining-up programming for low-income girls in our community which can be housed at existing local schools, community centers, and other youth-serving facilities, such as:

  1.  Oxford Day Academy, East Palo Alto
  2. College Track, East Palo Alto
  3. StreetCode Academy
  4. The City of Menlo Park’s Recreation Program

This was the case for Summer Session 2018. We provided two major program activities:

Digital Photography/Digital Storytelling Activity, ‘Your Story Is My Story:’

8 High School (9 grade) students from East Palo Alto’s Oxford Day Academy attended 9 weekly one and a half hour art photography classes. Taking inspiration from Tarana Burke's #Me Too movement (see following weblink) and Michelle Obama's powerful 2015 speech to young Muslim girls (link to YouTube clip follows), participants explored topics of sexual violence, body image pressures, and racism. Through photography and other visual arts mediums, students created campaign messages that advocate for young women and their rights for a safe and healthy environment. The workshop ended with a student run showcase to display their final art piece to their schools and community. The Girls presented their works of art and explained how it related to the theme “My Story is Your Story.”

 Participants built the following skills in a safe environment:

  1.  Self-reflection and self-expression;
  2. Confidence;
  3. Presentation skills;   
  4. Creative thinking;
  5. Digital photography;

 The exhibit is still on display at Menlo Park's Cafe Zoe as of this writing.

 Summer ‘Makerspace Camp’ at StreetCode Academy, Menlo Park.

14 low-income elementary- and middle-school students, 2 boys and 12 girls (ages 7 through 12) attended six weekly sessions between late June through July. In Makerspace, students focus on Science Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) fields outside of computer science, such as:

  1.  Design and execution of 3-D printing for objects ranging from vinyl t-shirts to audio speakers, skateboards, and even a projector! Others learned how to design & created original clothing using conventional fabrics;
  2.  Explorations of electrical and mechanical engineering principles and simple fabrication of items such as small solar-powered appliances;
  3.  Students bridged over to elementary software code-writing workshops and the use of digital media applications such as PC Paint™ and Scratch™.

 The primary objective was to help students grow creative agency and passion for learning, in addition to learning technical skills. It was quite gratifying to witness the sense of capability and empowerment which our young technology mavens gained from the series.

 At a time, and in a generation which all-but-worships digital technology and media, the (primarily) girls’ conviction that they were learning ‘cutting-edge stuff!’ as one girl, Jamilah, put it, was palpable.

 And as far as we’re concerned, they are correct in feeling that way!          

Along the way, Girls to Women Summer 2018 Staff -- Sarah Hoffman, a senior at Palo Alto University, and Jailah Francis, a g2W alumna and now a sophomore at Canada College, received 30 hours of professional development training through the Children's Health Council’s Ravenswood School District Initiative, Spring 2018.

We also provided logistical support and financial aid to the families of 5 low-income girls (ages 7 thru 12) to attend The City of Menlo Park’s Summer Recreational Program.

Yes, this is a challenging time for community-based nonprofits on The Peninsula.  We're reminded of that axiom: 'Adapt or perish.'  We're adapting, because the need for youth development services among low-income families under intensifying economic pressure isn't going away.  Thanks to our community linkages -- and the continuing generosity of donors like you -- we're finding new and creative ways to meet our mission to 'support our community's girls as they design their futures for successful womanhood.'  We can't let the girls and their families down . . . and we can't do that without your support! Thanks again.

Learning basic digital media software applications
Learning basic digital media software applications
Several girls became tool-empowered!
Several girls became tool-empowered!
She designed and made her dress!
She designed and made her dress!
More digital media skills-building
More digital media skills-building

Links:

Collective victory at this years Fun Run
Collective victory at this years Fun Run

 

Spring here at 'g2W' was, as is proper, about unfolding back into greater activity after the dark, cold, storms, and long holiday vacations of winter.  Girls returned to participate in local natural areas, playgrounds, vegetable gardens, footraces, and other events appropriate to the warming season.

One notable example was our 7th Annual Margaret Wright 5K Fun Run & Walk at Mountain View's Shoreline Park on March 10th, which culminated weeks of girls' learning about and practicing healthy lifestyle choices and fitness (the health/lifestyle/diet connection is a major issue for people of all ages, and especially for children & youth, among disadvantaged communities). Motivational speakers, exhibitors, fitness experts, and local leaders brought 'breadth and depth' to "The Run." This event just keeps growing, with the greatest number of registered participants (227), many unregistered runners, general community turnout, volunteer interest (over 150 recruited!), and sponsorships ever. Aside from all of the community-building and health educational aspects of The Run, over $14,000 net revenue was raised to support programming for underserved girls ages 6-14 this year.

But spring is of course also time to hit the academics. Research from organizations like the State Environmental Education Roundtable (see weblinks, following) indicates that children & youth often  learn better when abstract lessons are tied to real-world activities that students can relate to. Our girls are no exception. That's why we emphasize experiential approaches whenever feasible.  In one case, the challenge of dividing a spring vegetable bed equally into a dozen plots for our participants provides a basic lesson in addition, division, and other arithmetical basics, in a way that our girls readily engage-with. We approach other practical STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) lessons the same way; for example we like to get our girls busy building small solar power arrays while they're book-learning the science behind them. As we've said before, here at the northern end of Silicon Valley, girls should not lack exposure to the digital revolution and the explosively-growing importance of STEM literacy generally.

While girls are getting lessons in applied math, English language arts, and other subjects, this is also the time when our late-elementary age girls and their families complete applications to academic-track middle-schools here in and around East Palo Alto's Ravenswood School District. We're proud of the rate at which our girls have gained admittance over the years, a rate which is nearly triple that for girls who can't access out-of-school academic enrichment programming in our community. We support families in preparing their girls for these applications, as well as the academic development of their daughters.

Spring Semester 2018 will of course by over in a few weeks, so we're continuing to work with our tried and true volunteers and visiting specialists, from Maureen the librarian-angel to Ruth the math expert and Angela the Do-It-Yourself science guru, even as we put the finishing touches on our upcoming Summer Session 2018.

What better time to acknowledge the generous in-kind and financial contributions of parents, relatives, concerned citizen volunteers, and not least our financial donors large and small, institutional and individual than right now.  Our work -- this spring and every day -- would be impossible without your generous support -- thanks again!

A family thing
A family thing
Kids of all ages got fit this spring
Kids of all ages got fit this spring

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Girls to Women

Location: East Palo Alto, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Girls_to_Women
Project Leader:
Patrica Foster
Executive Director
East Palo Alto, CA United States

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