Each year our girls look forward to exciting summer programs with Girls Inc. of Alameda County. This summer we got creative and provided all of our intentional programs remotely. Our staff, along with 112 volunteers from the community and local companies, served 220 girls with remote programming during the month of July! This incredible outpouring of adult mentors, internship hosts, and panel speakers enabled us to connect and provide support in a different way for many girls this summer.
Before programming began, families socially distanced as they picked up all the supplies their girls would need. At Girls Inc. of Alameda County, we provide programming at no cost to our families, and this includes ensuring girls have everything needed to successfully participate. The remote supplies included: a Girls Inc. t-shirt, yoga mat, rolling cart, art canvases, reusable water bottle, books, and a football! At the end of the summer, each girl who exhibited great attendance and participation received a new backpack and school supplies from our generous partner, Simpson Strong-Tie!
Elementary school girls participated in our Concordia Park summer camp using Zoom video conferencing. Girls engaged in activities that ranged from performing a play, to creating murals that reflect their community, to learning about great women in astronomy! Keeping girls engaged in academic activities over the summer helps to lessen summer learning loss that is typical for most students, and even more pronounced within the communities we serve, in general, but especially after weeks of lost learning at the end of last school year due to the pandemic.
The middle school girls learned about coding and created an online magazine with their new skills. They also took several virtual field trips to different companies including Facebook, Turner Construction and Chevron to learn about careers in STEAM fields. Exposure to different STEAM careers, many of which are male-dominated, and making connections with professional women in these careers is an important part of our programming. Research shows that despite equal interest in elementary school, by 8th grade girls are half as interested as boys in these careers, limiting their access to rewarding opportunities. Our programs aim to change that through exposure and connections.
Families from both elementary and middle school programs were invited to several online events. Ongoing research shows that family engagement in a child’s learning improves student engagement and achievement; youth with involved caregivers earn higher grades and test scores and have better social skills.
- The families really enjoyed the Family Literacy Night where they were provided online access to Epic Online Library, free of cost.
- We hosted a Family Communication Workshop, providing families with tools and resources that support communication with their children.
- At the end of the summer, families attended a showcase event where the girls performed their plays, showed artwork, and demonstrated what they learned.
Our high school girls were also very busy this summer!
- The younger high school girls completed STEAM projects including exploring chemical reactions that make slime, designing a building with limited supplies, and removing oil from bird feathers.
- A favorite activity was building a water filtration system using household items (empty water bottle, rocks, sand, and noodles). The girls filtered water using the DIY device and used PH strips to investigate the results. These types of interactive science projects spark an interest in science, and develop scientific reasoning skills.
- Many girls attended a workshop about high school classes and how to plan for a college prep track (A-G requirements). A session on learning styles enabled them to decipher how they learn best and led to creating SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals for the school year.
Our Remote Program was a huge success with 35 girls being placed with hosts from local companies. In order to be prepared for the experience, girls attended workshops on workplace professionalism and communication styles. The girls participated in the invaluable experience of engaging in a professional setting one-on-one with mentors in the workforce. Samara was matched with a professional at Benefit Cosmetics. She said, “A career with Benefit is my dream job and I enjoyed this experience because I got to see a different side of cosmetics. I hope I can become a lead biochemist for Benefit after I graduate from college.”
In our new Summer Leadership Institute program, girls created projects and campaigns for social issues they care about and organizations that support them. The institute projects included creating hashtags, flyers, writing campaign speeches, and giving out actual information on places to donate and support the movements. When speaking about girls receiving an education in Afghanistan, one girl said, “I want to be the voice of all the girls around the world, I want to make a difference” and directed people to Malala Yousafzai’s organization for education for girls. This is the kind of empowerment and action we work to inspire in our girls!
The girls in our CAN! (College Access Now) program were paired with one-on-one essay mentors from our community to start crafting essays for their college applications and scholarship submissions. College application time can be an anxiety ridden time for a high school student, and having someone spend a few hours a week dedicated to supporting her in this venture is empowering. This group of girls also had the opportunity to take a remote college class of their choice at Laney College. Classes ranged from painting, to calculus, to creative writing. Girls who took painting led the group in a painting lesson during their last day in program.
While this was not the summer the girls (or program staff) were originally planning for, our mission of inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold continued to be intentionally woven into our daily activities and remained at the core of our programming. We thank the community for continuing to invest time and funding to make this possible!