Meet PowerPlay NYC: Inspiring Futures for Girls of Color
This summer’s Rio Olympics gave us many reasons to cheer, including the inspiring stories of female athletes who overcame the odds to succeed. We congratulated the U.S. team for sending more women athletes to Rio than any team in history. Female athletes from 29 participating countries, including the United States, went home with more medals than their male teammates. AAUW is helping the next generation of superstars emerge in various ways, including our Title IX advocacy and Community Action Grant funding for local programs like PowerPlay NYC.
While the numbers are up at the Olympics, local communities are still struggling to catch up. In New York City, girls participate in sports at half the rate that boys do. Girls in the region are two years behind boys in motor skills development due to fewer opportunities for girls’ sports teams. A 2015 study by the National Women’s Law Center found that girls of color are “disadvantaged when it comes to opportunities to play sports in high school and also face obstacles to being physically active in their communities outside of school.”
AAUW 2011–2012 Community Action Grantee PowerPlay NYC focuses on girls and young women between the ages of six and 21 in its SuperSTARS Leadership Academy. Young women of color learn from strong female role models through programming focusing on physical fitness, education, and mentoring. The four- to six-week summer program develops their skills academically by visiting colleges to develop their interests, physically by playing many of the sports in the Olympics, and professionally by exploring career opportunities through internships. Through all these experiences, the girls are learning alongside their peers, mentors, and coaches.
Before receiving the AAUW grant, PowerPlay’s programs operated primarily with part-time staff and up to five partner institutions. Twenty-four girls participated, and not all girls landed internships. Thanks to the grant, PowerPlay currently has 60 partner institutions, more than 100 volunteers, and a well-trained coaching staff. Best of all? Every girl in their last cohort received 40-hour internship placements at partner institutions, and many of them continued their internships after the program ended.
In addition to strengthening local athletic programs, the current executive director of PowerPlay, Jo Haines, envisions the program developing in the area of college counseling, as most public high schools lack the resources to provide necessary mentorship. A single guidance counselor could be available to as many as 400 students and many of them, inevitably, fall through the cracks. Continuing programs like SuperSTARS Leadership Academy and the STARS Series After-School allows young women of color the ability to have one-on-one mentoring with professional women of color.
The future holds a world of possibilities for the young women of color and their families in New York who are a part of the PowerPlay community.
This blog post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants intern, Theresa Romualdez.
As an AAUW fellow, Rachel Rollins conducted comprehensive research on Title IX in New England and educated organizations on the statute and its direct effect on women.
Team-Up for Youth’s Coach Like a Girl program has spent several years upping the number of female coaches in after-school programs in California and encouraging girls to play sports.
2005–06 American Fellow Michelle Segar believes that what society has taught us about exercise has set us up to fail.