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Young Women’s Initiative Awards Four Mini-Grants

SPRINGFIELD — A group of Springfield young women participating in the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts’ Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) recently awarded four YWI mini-grants to nonprofits that serve the Springfield area. The project was in partnership with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

In the past year, the YWI participants were charged with identifying and researching issues that are barriers to young women and girls in Springfield. According to Program Officer Christine Monska, “the YWAC [Young Women’s Advisory Council] worked over the course of several months to conduct research on the specific needs of their community through interviews and surveys. Then they developed a request for proposal so nonprofit organizations could address their recommendations. This process, where youth — especially young women — are at the center of discussions is the future of community development.”

As part of their exploration, the 20 young women developed a set of recommendations for action. They chose four key issues: women in leadership; rape culture; mental health; and economic, community, and workforce development. A partnership with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts that provided grant funds allowed YWI to put out a call to Springfield-area organizations for projects that could address these issues through programming. Four grant applications were developed, and, after review, the YWAC chose to award funds to: 

• The Center for Human Development ($2,545). Grant funds will be used to provide young women residents in CHD Springfield locations with experiences outside of what state funding provides. In the past, they’ve been taken to historical sites in Boston, aquarium trips to Boston or Mystic, Six Flags outings, or a formal night out complete with fancy dresses, a limo ride to a fine-dining restaurant, and etiquette lessons. Each outing is accompanied by a clinical session, individually or as a group, to discuss the emotions experienced.

• Girls Inc. of Holyoke ($2,515). Funds received will be used toward the cost of planning and running the Teen Leadership Academy at the High School of Commerce in November. The Teen Leadership Academy is a leadership-training program run for and by women, and is offered to young women ages 15-18 at Springfield’s High School of Commerce. Girls Inc. staff members bring their expertise in meeting girls’ developmental needs, and helping girls build self-confidence and self-discipline.

• Cambridge Credit Counseling ($2,515). Cambridge Credit Counseling will provide twice-weekly financial-literacy seminars and one-on-one counseling to participants in Springfield Roca’s Young Mothers program. The program is designed to assist single mothers between the ages of 16 and 24 with a history of gang involvement or drug and/or alcohol abuse. The goal of the series is to help these young mothers break out of the cycle of violence and poverty, go to work, and provide for their families’ financial needs.

• Springfield School Volunteers and Human in Common ($2,515). Human in Common is a business offering active bystander training to create more informed individuals who are prepared to stand up against discrimination, harassment, and injustice. Through a partnership with Springfield School Volunteers, Human in Common will provide eight hours of training for students at Springfield Middle School, teaching them to identify and interrupt behaviors that can escalate into sexual harassment and assault.

The Young Women’s Initiative is a national project aimed at creating sustainable prosperity for young women. The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts is leading the Springfield partnership, which began in 2017. Session topics include gender and racial justice, public policy, social activism, economic empowerment, and public speaking and leadership skills. The 10-month program is open to young women between the ages of 14 and 24 who reside in Springfield. There is no tuition fee for this program, and accepted members are paid up to $900 in stipends for attending. Applications for the 2018-19 session are due on Sept. 21. More information is available at www.mywomensfund.org/ywi-program-details.

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