Opinion

Inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold | Susan Kovalik

With our ability today to connect through media, we have unparalleled opportunities to surround ourselves with information — often times with so much it is difficult to sort it all out. But where does the individual user develop their sense of their relationship to that information and its usefulness?

Communities and the organizations within them try to fill the gap between the digital natives (the term used to define the users of technology) and personal opportunities to expand competencies and character. In addition to sports, there are Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Bluebirds, 4-Hers, Pathfinders, music lessons and dance lessons.

Now there's another opportunity in Federal Way called Girls’ Inc. It is a national organization dedicated to “inspiring girls to be strong, smart and bold.” It is designed for girls ages 8 to 18. Six-week programs are offered year round to provide physical, intellectual and social challenges.

During the two years that I have lived in Federal Way, I have had the privilege of being invited to speak at local service clubs and share what I know about the brain. In more than one service club, the goal is to help battered women, single mothers, neglected children, homeless mothers and their children, and helping young women go on to college. All very worthwhile causes.

However, it occurred to me that so many of these stories could have been different if the early years of the women had been different. Learning to recognize the power in our lives comes many ways: One from a childhood where you were valued, one from a school system that supported your understanding of how the world works, and one from outside activities that your community offers. It is my hope that by "inspiring girls to be strong, smart and bold" that their lives could be orchestrated to develop their gifts and talents and contributions.

Girls’ Inc., a national organization, is just such an environment to develop these skills.

A trained professional staff meets once a week for eight weeks to present the following programs. Classes are organized by age so that all information is developmentally appropriate. The courses include:

1. In our own hands — building leadership skills and creating lasting social change through community action projects.

2. Economic literacy — learning how to manage money, invest and begin to develop an appreciation for global economics.

3. Friendly ‘Peer’suasion — developing skills to resist pressure to use harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco, household chemicals, and other drugs.

4. Media literacy — learning to critically analyze what they see and hear in the media (news and advertising) and advocate for images that are more realistic and reflective of their lives.

5. Preventing adolescent pregnancy — acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to take charge of and to make informed, thoughtful decisions about their sexual health.

6. Operation SMART — developing enthusiasm for and skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and consider careers in these fields by interacting with women and men pursuing such careers.

7. Project BOLD — learning to lead safer lives by developing skills and strategies for self-defense, including physical techniques and the ability to seek out and talk to caring adults about personal violence issues.

8. Sporting chance — appreciating an active lifestyle as they develop movement and athletic skills, cooperative and competitive spirit, health awareness and interest in outdoor adventure.

Girls Incorporated of South Puget Sound is partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of Auburn and the Federal Way EX3 Ron Sandwith Teen Center to provide a Girls Inc. program at each site, starting with "In Our Own Hands: Leadership in action."

Check out our Web site at www.girlsincofSPS.org to find the locations and times.

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