At the conclusion of each year's Girls' Day Out/Girls' Circle program, we hold a Girls' Celebration Dinner to which participating girls are encouraged to invite a woman they admire as their guest. We hold the dinner and program at Schenectady High School to encourage the girls to be comfortable there and look forward to attending SHS. Diane Wilkinson, the SHS principal, comes to give welcoming remarks.
Last year, we had about 120 in attendance; this year, on April 8th, we had more Girls' Circles (19) and planned for 150-170 girls, their guests, school clinicians, and our Muses (volunteer Circle leaders). We were amazed and delighted when 220 turned out!! We ran out of food, but the positive energy in the room was overwhelming. Schenectady Superintendent Laurence Spring came and spoke of his support and enthusiasm for the program. Girls from each school spoke about what it meant to them to be part of a Girls' Circle.
One seventh grader wrote out her comments after her first year in the program, saying "From Girls' Circle I have learned that, yes I'm different but that's good. I used to be a shy, quiet girl but thanks to Girls' Circle I finally have the courage to talk in front of all of you. I also learned that if people judge you, who cares? Only let you judge you. You're all amazing for showing me that, thank you all for the support and showing me the way to a whole new perspective of who I am, thank you. I have bonded with most of these girls who I never thought I'd be friends [with]. Overall Girls' Circle was the best time of my life. You're all my family. Thanks."
Our high school Circle has three girls graduating; one of them, Theresa Robert, has been with us since the first Girls' Day Out, is in the International Baccalaureate program at SHS and is planning to go into the medical field. She attributes her experience with Girls' Circles as being one of the major keys to her success.
Dr. Nichelle Rivers gave an impassioned keynote address, complete with song, about staying in school and not being seduced by peers and media messages to give up.
Morning workshops focusing on developing relationship skills included 'Lose the 'Tude' introducing girls to strategies to help themselves in times of stress with meditation, mindfulness and yoga. Feedback from the girls was very positive: "This workshop helped me relax & use the movements when I feel stressed or unhappy;" "Thanks for helping with the anger;" "Taught me a lot about keeping calm. Thank you for your time and effort."
The workshop `Surviving Seventh Grade and Beyond' had a panel of girls from the 8th grade into high school who shared their lives as works in process and generated discussion around bullying, fighting, and recognizing their true value. According to one girl, it was "amazing to hear from other people. I thought I was the only one." Another said, "I think this was very helpful. I'm the shy quiet bullied one- you helped a lot."
The `Can We Talk? Parents Just Don't Understand Me' workshop used role-playing to help girls understand their parents, learn how to talk with them and others, and how to make choices.
The afternoon arts expression workshops were lively and full of positive energy. All in all, it was a wonderful, very successful day. As one girl noted, "It was my favorite day of my life!"
Many thanks to the League members who helped with Girls' Day Out, and to our sponsors: The Schenectady Foundation (our primary sponsor), The Henry M. Butzel Family Foundation, Stewart's Shops, Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson, Schenectady Federation of Teachers, Alice Rubenfeld, Catherine Bertini, New York State United Teachers, LWV NYS Education Foundation, Golub Foundation/Price Chopper, Angelo Mazzone and Kulak's Nursery and Landscaping.
Joanne Tobiessen, Chair
The Working Group on Girls is busy working through the summer to prepare for our Fifth Annual Girls' Day Out/Girls' Circle program for middle school and high school girls. Later this summer we will be seeking volunteers to be Muses to conduct Girls' Circles in the coming year. Watch for further information.
Our efforts have been honored by The Schenectady Foundation which has awarded us a two-year grant with probable future funding stating:
"The Schenectady Foundation sees the Working Group on Girls as a critical investment for girls in our community who come from extremely challenging backgrounds. It gives them hope, self-confidence and support to see that they can, in fact, have a dream + and with determination, fulfill it. We are leveraging the wellspring of passion and skill of trained, committed women volunteers who mentor and guide the girls through a very difficult time in their lives. Relationships are developed with the potential to have life-long impact. The Schenectady Foundation is matching other contributions to Working Group on Girls because we believe it to be a vital component of what these girls need as a resource to have a shot at success in school, and beyond."
Joanne Tobiessen, Chair