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Girls, Inc. Lunch Group Empowers Young Women with Life Skills

This is a photo of young women who attend the Girls, Inc. lunch group on a field trip to Utica University, standing next to the school's sign and smiling.“We’re getting ready for the blood drive – it’s next week,” PSLA junior Kabebe Mukambabazi said to her advisor. “You should donate… you can help save lives!”
The confidence among the group of half a dozen girls gathered in a conference room at PSLA at Fowler High School is clear. And that’s the goal of the group that brought them together.
Thanks to Girls, Inc. at the YWCA, for three to four days each week, girls at PSLA at Fowler – and Syracuse STEM at Blodgett – gather over their lunch breaks to connect over a curriculum intended to help set them up with the skills and confidence they need to be successful in life – whatever it is that they choose to do.
“We talk about girl power, human rights, things like that,” Kabebe explained. “The best part is the conversations that we’ve had. It feels amazing. In the morning, we have so much work to do. It feels good at lunchtime to have the opportunity to come in here and talk with other girls like this.”
“For me, the best part has been the college visits,” Sadia Uwase shared. “Last year, we went to Wells College and the University at Buffalo… and to Niagara Falls! These experiences give us choices. We’re juniors and we need that experience. These have been my first experiences on college campuses! I’m taking Fire Rescue classes right now and that’s something I want to do in the future – but it’s good to be able to see what’s out there.”
Initially, the program touched on getting to know each other and general discussions about the issues they’re facing. The basic Girls, Inc. curriculum touches on healthy relationships, financial literacy, media literacy, leadership and advocacy, nutrition education, and more. This year, because the majority of the PSLA girls have been in the program previously, program leader Caitlyn Copfer has been able to delve even deeper into these topics.
“Last year, we talked about the importance of advocating for themselves and using their voice,” Ms. Copfer shared. “This year, we’re expanding that to focus on leadership and advocacy, and how they can use their voices to help advocate for others.”
Without prompting, the PSLA participants this year decided they’d like to start a community action project, leading a winter clothing drive to benefit a local homeless shelter.

At Syracuse STEM at Blodgett, the 6th through 8th graders who participate in the lunch group focus more on financial literacy and – because the group happens to meet in a space that has a full kitchen – cooking and life skills!
“Quieres una empanada de carne o pollo?” Girls, Inc. lunch group advisor Ivette Pedrosa asks the girls gathered around a long table. “About 90% of the girls here speak only Spanish,” she adds.
The girls wash their hands and press their empanadas together, dropping them into a skillet of oil to cook, as Ms. Pedrosa looks on and offers guidance in Spanish.
“It’s been fun to make new things and help others,” 6th grade student Yanelis Natos explained. “My favorite part of the lunch group has been learning to cook – I’ve even learned how to use my senses to improve cooking by adding spices. We’ve made smoothies, bagel pizza, empanadas, and more. We have also talked about how much food ingredients cost, and how much more it can cost to eat at a restaurant. You can save a lot of money by cooking yourself, and I know how to cook at home now. These are good skills to have.”
In addition to their in-school lunch groups, all students who participate in the Girls, Inc. lunch groups are also invited to engage in the wide range of YWCA-based Girls, Inc. programming – including STEM activities and the annual Girl’s Summit held at SUNY-ESF.  
To reach students of all ages, the Girls, Inc. team has also begun an after-school group at Seymour Dual Language Academy. We’re proud of the girls who are participating in these programs, and we look forward to continuing to see their leadership in action!
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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