Girls Inc. has been empowering and equipping girls ages 6 to 18 in the Northwest for the last 20 years. Founded in 1998 originally as Girls Initiative Network, the local grassroot organization became an affiliate of the national organization, Girls Incorporated® in 2005. The Pacific Northwest group served more than 3,000 girls last year, which was a 30 percent increase from the previous school year. Their goal is to serve 20,000 girls in the Northwest by 2025.
Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest offers innovative educational programming for girls that help them develop a well-rounded and healthy view of themselves and the world around them. They work on teaching girls about important topics such as body image, bullying and sexual harassment, while offering a safe girls-only environment. Girls can also explore other things like technology, engineering, science and math. Interactive activities are provided to help motivate girls and develop their strengths.
Mentoring relationships between students and adult staff or volunteers help girls develop positive relationships that help cultivate trust.
“Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest aspires to have a real and lasting impact on the girls we serve,” said Eileen Schmidt, Southwest Washington manager. “We provide an experience that focuses on the needs of girls in a holistic way. We know that girls who participate in Girls Inc. programming gain considerable knowledge and skills from their formal and informal contact with Girls Inc. programming, staff and volunteers.”
The primary goal of Girls Inc. is to inspire young women to be strong, smart and bold. To help with this, the organization is working to build partnerships and relationships with community members that resonate with the mission and want to make a positive impact on girls.
“One of the challenges of developing relationships and programming in a new community is establishing a reputation as an organization people in the community want to work with, while finding community members who are interested in being a part of the Girls Inc. team,” Schmidt said. “We’re actively looking for community members to join our Southwest Washington board committee and are recruiting for volunteers to run girls group after school programming in six schools. These are great opportunities for people who are interested in the mission and work of Girls Inc. to become a part of the growing work in Southwest Washington.”
Recently, the organization formed a partnership with the Mount St. Helen’s Institute, which allows girls to explore their adventurous side and learn valuable leadership skills. They can participate in fun activities like rock climbing, snowshoeing, hiking, canoeing and more.
Girls Groups meet with guides each week for 90 minutes over the three eight-week terms every school year. The groups are made up of girls from two consecutive grade levels and they meet in various places across Clark County.
Schmidt explains that so far, participants have learned valuable skills that teach them how to be leaders in their spheres of influence and ultimately, it has fostered stronger relationships between friends, reduced aggressive or hurtful behavior, improved academic achievement and has helped boost confidence and self esteem.
“We know that it is important to teach girls how to be leaders in their communities, and that often begins with being able to reflect on and manage their own interpersonal conflicts,” Schmidt said. “We know that there is power in girls being able to support other girls. We are thrilled we’re able to bring this important programming to Southwest Washington and help support these schools with the tools and resources they need to address important issues affecting girls.”