See Our Stories

Fostering Legacies of Service

Posted by Lilli Schussler Jul 7, 2014

This is the second installment in a six-post series about SWSG’s model and impact. In light of 10 years of strong work, this series shows the impact of SWSG’s model and connects it to current events and research about girls and women today.

At Strong Women, Strong Girls, the mission goes far beyond creating just a network of strong girls and women — we aspire to instill in our women and girls a sense of duty to give back to their community.

This is essential if we intend to create real, long lasting change within our communities. The numbers reflect this sentiment — according to the 2014 Opportunity Nation Historical Report, both group membership and volunteering can play an integral role in how a community fares in providing opportunities to its citizens. There is a strong link between economic growth and group membership, likely due to $150 billion dollars worth of services that are contributed annually through volunteer work.

We are proud that SWSG’s professional mentors, college mentors, and pre-adolescent girls are a part of this number. Our college mentors volunteer approximately 80 hours per-program year, while our pre-adolescent girls volunteer approximately 48 hours of their time during our service curriculum.

With SWSG’s model of mutual empowerment, community service and group membership are crucial to achieving our end goal. We provide our college mentors with a professional mentor available for inspiration and empowerment for them on their path to creating change. As our mentors engage in community service and group membership through the mentoring aspect of SWSG, the duty of giving back is certainly not lost on the pre-adolescent girls that we serve.

Each spring, SWSG implements their service curriculum, which allows the girls to get an understanding of how community service can have an impact. Rather than just teaching them about women who have made an impact through service, the girls are actively engaged in the process by taking on their own service project. The girls consider their own communities — their schools, their churches, their neighborhoods, their families — and note areas for improvement that they can work to address with their mentors.

How SWSG's mentorship model translates to a strengthened sense of community responsibility.

How SWSG’s mentorship model translates to a strengthened sense of community responsibility.

By allowing our girls to then learn about local organizations in the area that are serving vulnerable populations after a full semester of learning from our Skills Curriculum, they are able to reach an entirely new level of empowerment. The transition from the Skills Curriculum to the Service Curriculum allows girls to showcase their leadership skills, understand how they can have an impact on a community in need, and nurture an interest in community service after SWSG is completed.

In Pittsburgh, girls created birthday celebration kits to donate to Beverly’s Birthdays,  a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing birthday celebrations for homeless children living in shelters in Pittsburgh. In Boston, girls created handmade blankets to donate to a local charity, which each chapter was able to vote on who received their project.

This learning extends far beyond SWSG’s weekly meetings. One mentor explains, “…one of our girls brought up her interest in the problem of homelessness in NYC. Later in the semester, she shared with us a paper she had written on the subject. It was wonderful to see her passion and talent emerge in that way.”

If there is one thing I’ve learned through my experiences in working with girls, it is that there’s truly nothing they cannot accomplish in a safe space. Given the opportunities and guidance to effect change, girls will make it happen. When female civic duty is fostered — instead of criticized as being charged with emotion, aggression, or bossiness  — a love and determination for making an impact will undeniably grow.

Emily Kindschy is the SWSG Research and Development intern. She is a 2014 graduate of Lesley University and MSW candidate. She hopes to use her background and future education to improve the lives of women and girls across the world through direct service work and policy.

$30 gives college mentors the tools needed to be role models.