By Jordan Dunn, senior Sociology major and Gender Studies minor at Westminster College
Westminster College is a small liberal arts school in Western Pennsylvania. This semester, the college offered a Psychology of Women class taught by Dr. Sherri Pataki. In the class, we study intercultural perspectives on women’s adolescence, communications between genders, and intimate relationships. Not only did Dr. Pataki want to teach the class important issues affecting women and girls, she also wanted to have an impact on the community. She thought it was important to incorporate a service-learning project devoted to working with at-risk girls in the local area, allowing the class to see a real response to the issues we have been studying.
On Tuesday, March 28th the Psychology of Women class received a visit from Lynne Garfinkel, the Director of Communications and Development at Strong Women, Strong Girls. Lynne came to explain the program and benefits of Strong Women, Strong Girls to the class. She explained the SWSG “Countdown to Success Skills” curriculum model: the skills – from goal setting to good communication, the strong women – from Bessie Coleman to Sonia Sotomayor, and activities – from building a city to holding a debate. So, how could Westminster College not only help girls in the community, but also benefit Strong Women, Strong Girls?
The class divided into smaller groups and each picked a significant woman in history, about whom they could write a biography and create a lesson around. This project is also an experiment in alternative methods of bringing SWSG to campuses, as colleges aren’t always able to bring the program to their school in its fullest form.
This semester, our class will be going to work with girls from a youth and family service center close to the campus once a week, for a total of three weeks. We hope to create curriculum that will make for an educational, influential, and empowering experience for the girls. Currently, we are brainstorming ideas for lessons that have not been used before by SWSG. At the end of the program, the class will send our ideas to Strong Women, Strong Girls as suggestions for future lessons in the program.
Our goal as a class is to inspire girls in the local area by adapting the Strong Women, Strong Girls model. We hope that Westminster College will be able to receive funding to bring SWSG to our campus in the future, with the hope to inspire girls in the community and impact the world around us.
I will continue to document our process in the coming weeks as we break off into groups to design lessons and present our ideas to the class. We hope to create some useful ideas for the Strong Women, Strong Girls curriculum!