In the past year, the Young Women’s Initiative participants were charged with identifying and researching issues that are barriers to young women and girls in Springfield. According to Program Officer, Christine Monska “The YWAC (Young Women’s Advisory Council) worked over the course of several months to conduct research on the specific need in their community through interviews and surveys. Then they developed a request for proposal so nonprofit organizations could address their recommendations. This process, where youth – especially young women- are at the center of discussions is the future of community development.”
As part of their exploration, the 20 young women developed a set of recommendations for action. They chose four key issues: Women in Leadership, Rape Culture, Mental Health, and Economic, Community and Workforce Development. A partnership with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts allowed them to put out a call to community organizations for projects that could address these issues through programming. After review, the YWAC have chosen to award funds to:
Center for Human Development ($2,545)
Grant funds will be used to provide young women residents in CHD Springfield locations with experiences outside of what the state funding provides. Most of the residents are struggling with the very issues that the YWAC identified and CHD wants to give them experiences that other kids get. In the past they’ve been taken to the historical sites in Boston, aquarium trips to Boston or Mystic, Six Flags outings, or a formal night out complete with fancy dresses, a limo ride to a fine-dining restaurant, and etiquette lessons.
Each outing is accompanied by a clinical session, individually or as a group, to discuss the emotions experienced so that the program members are able to have an introspective look at it not as simply a trip to the park, but an evaluation of their personal and social responsibilities and behaviors.
Girls Inc. of Holyoke ($2,515)
Funds received will be used toward the cost of planning and running the Teen Leadership Academy at the High School of Commerce in November of 2018. Girls Inc.’s Teen Leadership Academy is a leadership training program run for women and by women. The program is offered to young women ages 15-18 at Springfield’s High School of Commerce. Girls Inc. staff members bring their expertise in meeting girls’ developmental needs, and helping girls build self-confidence and self-discipline.
Cambridge Credit Counseling ($2,515)
Cambridge Credit Counseling will provide twice-weekly financial literacy seminars and one-on-one counseling to participants in Springfield Roca’s Young Mothers program. The program is designed to assist single mothers between the ages of 16 and 24 with a history of gang involvement or drug and/or alcohol abuse. These high-risk mothers, often with no employment history, may have also suffered from violence and trauma. The fundamentals of personal money management, opening checking and savings accounts, building and maintaining good credit and embracing positive financial habits will be covered. The goal of the series is to help these young mothers break out of the cycle of violence and poverty, go to work, and provide for their families’ financial needs.
Springfield School Volunteers & Human in Common ($2,515)
Human in Common is a business offering active bystander training to create more informed individuals who are prepared to stand up against discrimination, harassment, and injustice. Through a partnership with Springfield School Volunteers, Human in Common will provide 8 hours of training for students at Springfield Middle School to bring awareness to rape culture, its manifestations and forms of expression throughout society. Using age-appropriate language and interactive exercises, participants will learn to identify and effectively interrupt behaviors that can escalate into sexual harassment and assault. In addition, this training teaches young people respect for themselves and others, and healthy social norms.
This is the first year of the Young Women’s Initiative program and we’re so proud of all they accomplished!