HW Smith Girl Up Program Empowers Girls to Be Their Own Advocates

     Published on 6/8/17   Tagged under:    District News    HW Smith K-8 School   

A new program in partnership with the United Nations Foundation is empowering girls at HW Smith to become advocates for themselves and others. “Girl Up,” the first of its kind in the SCSD, brings eighth grade girls together to talk about issues impacting them and their future.
 
“We were hearing that girls felt in the shadow of boys, especially with the Building Men program available to boys here at our school,” eighth grade ELA teacher and Girl Up advisor Carrie Ingersoll-Wood said. “We’re trying to get our girls out there and ready to be future leaders, showing them all the power they can harness to achieve whatever it is that they want to achieve.”
 
The girls wrote to Rep. John Katko to ask him to cosponsor the Protecting Girls' Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act before Congress. On International Women’s Day, they hung inspirational quotes from powerful women around their school (which remain today!). They held a girls night out and viewed the movie ‘Hidden Figures.’ They formed an alliance with POWER Engineers, a local organization in Franklin Square, which led to a $500 contribution to support Girl Up students who attended a cultural awareness field trip. Together with POWER Engineers, the Girl Up students cleaned up the space around the downtown POWER Engineers office on Earth Day!
 
The girls even partnered with the Building Men program and hosted a Lunch and Learn session about femininity, gender bias and symbolic annihilation.
 
“I joined Girl Up because I’m interested in the notion of helping girls around the world right from our own classroom,” Amina Salahou said. “This program has made me proud to be a girl. It’s a great experience because we’re advocating for each other. It also helps eliminate drama because it helps us build relationships with other girls. Being part of this group – the first Girl Up group in the district – makes me feel proud and accomplished.”
 
“Since I was little, I wanted to stand up for girls,” Anisa Salahou added. “People used to say that girls can’t play football, for example. But we’re all equal. I feel proud of what we’re accomplishing with Girl Up… it’s important that all girls have the chance to advocate for what they are passionate about.”
 
Advisors Ms. Ingersoll-Wood and Abigail Gleason are developing a curriculum that will expand the Girl Up concepts to younger grades at the school. The curriculum will center on nutrition and how it impacts development, social issues facing girls and more. The objective is to pair up Girl Up students with ‘little sisters’ to create strong female relationships.
 
In the meantime, in July, five Girl Up students comprising the group’s ‘Executive Board’ will travel to Washington, DC for a three-day national leadership summit. There, they will have the opportunity to meet with lawmakers, learn about influential women in politics and advocate for their community.
 
“Girls say this group helps them feel like they belong somewhere,” Abigail Gleason said. “It really empowers them to have a voice.”
 
Keep up the great work, Girl Up leaders!