Growing up in Massachusetts, I knew that I would move to New York City as soon as I could.  I came to the city often while growing up and was mesmerized by the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and Times Square.  When I moved here three years ago from Boston to Harlem, I began to explore what would become my new favorite spots – the West Village, TriBeCa, and the Upper East Side.  I was in an “empire state of mind,” and thought (rightfully so) that NYC was the best city in the world.  Yet when I began working in the non-profit field, I was captivated by another side of the city.  It’s the side of the city that has been subjected to a constant cycle of poverty and lack of constructive resources.
Recently, the New Yorker published a page showing the inequalities on the subway line.  This map reinforced what I had seen in traveling to public schools throughout the city.  Many neighborhoods are struggling to provide quality education, adequate health care, and safety services to its inhabitants.  Throughout the city, 33% of children are living in poverty, compared to 22% across the country.  300,000 children do not graduate high school each year.  Those who do not graduate high school have an average income of $18K, compared to almost $28K for a high school graduate, and approximately $51K for a college graduate.  When young girls do not have strong support systems at an early stage (56% of NYC children are raised in single parent homes), they are more likely to become victims of the cycle, and significantly less likely to reach their full potentials.  While their families are oftentimes very supportive, they sometimes lack the resources and time needed to provide opportunities for their daughters.  That is where Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) comes in.
Many say that the non-profit sector in New York is saturated.  It’s true.  There are countless nonprofits with the same vision, serving many missions and a variety of causes.  However, from what I’ve witnessed, elementary school girls are vastly underserved in this city.  While there are some programs, such as Girls, Inc. and Girls on the Run that target this demographic, I have found no organization that comes close to rivaling the results of Strong Women, Strong Girls.  Here in New York City, the income gap is widening and children are becoming more and more at-risk.  The city needs SWSG, and now is the time.  The core values embodied by SWSG are critical to the future success of the girls in this city.  New York City, with at least 50 colleges, thousands of potential supporters, and an under-resourced school system, is ready for, and needs, SWSG.  I look forward to the day when I’m walking through Mott Haven, East New York, or Hunts Point and see a girl rocking a pink “I Am Strong” Jump Into Spring  t-shirt, because I’ll know she is set up for success.

Kate Hayes was a chapter director with SWSG at Northeastern University.  She is currently the Director of Operations & Strategic Initiatives at Minds Matter National, Inc. and provides non-profit consulting at  Twitter: @kdahayes