Written by Rachel Vinciguerra, MEL Manager

During the COVID-19 crisis, marginalized youth are disproportionately impacted, bearing “the heaviest burdens of trauma and economic fallout” (Astesano, 2020). Our elementary school girls, especially, face compounding challenges:

  1. Kids in mentorship programs like SWSG are almost twice as likely to live in extreme poverty (Astesano, 2020).
  2. Between the ages of 8 and 14, research shows girls’ confidence drops by 30% in a non-crisis context (YPulse, 2019).
  3. In crisis situations when children are removed from school, they fall behind not just in academics but in critical social-emotional learning (Kamenetz, 2020).

SWSG’s programs are based on positive youth development principles that promote social-emotional learning. Two decades of research shows that social-emotional learning about skills like conflict resolution and self-awareness results in higher academic achievement, fewer conduct problems, positive social behavior, and less emotional distress (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2017). It is more important than ever that young girls have access to these programs when they are distanced from their peers and other trusted adults outside of the home.

We know that SWSG helps create the conditions for girls to be their most confident, caring, awesome selves. At SWSG:

  1. Almost half of the girls in SWSG live in households earning less than $27,799 per year.
  2. In just one semester of the program, girls show a statistically significant improvement in confidence.
  3. SWSG provides girls with important social-emotional skills with nearly 90% of responding parents this year sharing that their girl got better at resolving conflict peacefully and 86% saying their girl helped more often as a result of the program.

Most importantly, at a time when things feel out of control, SWSG gives girls a sense that they can make a difference in the world. This year alone, 97% of responding parents said girls’┬ábelief they could make an impact on their community increased because of SWSG.

Although we cannot meet with girls in-person at our 40 schools and community centers to play, learn, and cheer together right now, we will continue to deliver high-quality programming to them at home throughout the summer and into the fall, if needed. We have already pivoted to deliver our evidence-based curriculum virtually. In the coming weeks, we will send activity boxes to girls from select sites so they have all the resources they need to participate from home. And we will create safe and impactful opportunities for girls to connect with their mentors virtually for social-emotional learning and connection. Now, more than ever, we need to step up and support the positive development of the next generation of girl leaders.