Vancouver Members Take Action Mentoring Fifth-GradersJuly 18, 2011
This is the third post in a series featuring the AAUW Breaking through Barriers Award winners which were announced at the AAUW National Convention.
Fifth grade can be a rough year for anyone, but having an AAUW member as a mentor helps make the transition to middle school a little bit easier, as members of the AAUW Vancouver (WA) Branch are demonstrating. Young Women in Action, a mentoring program for fifth-grade girls, is staffed by AAUW members who help at-risk girls as they navigate relationships, personal care, career choices, money management, and other assorted challenges of being 11 years old and on the cusp of adolescence.
The program was founded several years ago by the local group Women in Action. Despite Women in Action’s disbandment, the school district wanted to continue the successful program, and the local AAUW came to the rescue. Now, over 15 members from the Vancouver branch work together with the Vancouver School District Foundation, parent volunteers, and former members of Women in Action to provide the nine-week program each spring.
The 75 at-risk girls, who are spread across three schools, work with some of the community’s strongest women. Program participants spend the weeks after spring break hearing trailblazing career women share their stories. AAUW members then work with the girls not only to set personal goals and explore career possibilities but also to engage in outlining the steps necessary to attain those goals. After all, AAUW doesn’t just want girls to dream big: All across the country, and especially in Vancouver, AAUW is teaching girls to turn their dreams into reality.
The women of Vancouver also know that through the coming years, the girls will need more than the solid foundation that Young Women in Action provides. They also need to be able to lean on each other as allies. Throughout the program, mentors work to bring the girls closer together, emphasizing bonds built upon weeks of friendship bracelets and shared experiences.
Since assuming responsibility for Young Women in Action, the Vancouver branch has received recognition from local media highlighting their important work. Now, as the girls begin their summer vacation with a bit more self-confidence, the branch members are looking forward to another year of working with young women. Mentors consistently observe closer relationships built among the girls, and middle school staff members who work with the girls in the following year report continued benefits from the program.
“The most frequently heard quote from the volunteers is, ‘I think I got more out of doing this program than I gave to it,’” said Anna Whipple, president of the Vancouver branch.
If you’re interested in learning more about this program, contact the AAUW Vancouver (WA) Branch.
This post was written by former AAUW Communications Intern Laura Webb.