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HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley recently welcomed five new members to its board of directors: Nikai Fondon, George Keady, Alaina Macaulay, Cheri Mills, and Ciara Speller. These new members join the current board of directors to support strategic planning to map out the future of the organization.

Fondon has worked at Marketing Doctor Inc. since January as a marketing specialist and previously worked at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) as a donor-engagement coordinator and scholarship program associate for four years. She currently serves as a board member for the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield (YPS). She has been a panelist for the 2020 Girls and Racism Virtual Town Hall and has worked with Girls Inc. teens on creative writing and marketing projects. She was recognized as a Dream Maker at Spirit of Girls 2022.

Keady has worked at UBS Financial Services/Wealth Management in Springfield for 39 years and, upon retirement this year, was a managing director. He has served as a board member for CFWM and Saint Michael’s College, and was a chairperson for Glenmeadow Retirement Community and Bay Path University. He has been a long-time champion for girls and friend of Girls Inc.

Macaulay is the senior director for Inclusion and Strategic Engagement at UMass Amherst. She worked previously at UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management for three years as the executive director of Diversity and Inclusion and, before that, at Elms College as the director of Diversity and Inclusion for two years. She has been involved with Girls Inc. through support of the 2020 Girls and Racism Virtual Town Hall. She currently serves as a board member for YPS and Chester Theatre Co.

Mills has worked at PeoplesBank for eight years as a Business Banking manager and is currently the assistant vice president. She has been involved with Girls Inc. as a volunteer through the finance committee this past year. She also served on the corporate and community impact committee and helped secure sponsorship commitments for Spirit of Girls 2022.

Speller has worked at WWLP as an evening anchor for five years. She has been involved with Girls Inc. for the past couple of years, including as the moderator for the 2020 Girls and Racism Virtual Town Hall and host for Spirit of Girls 2021. She and WWLP did the news broadcast live for Spirit of Girls 2022 on location at the Big E, where she was also a recipient of a Girls Inc. Dream Maker award. She also serves as a board member for the nonprofit I Found Light Against All Odds.

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HOLYOKE — The new Girls Inc. of the Valley headquarters and program center is one big step closer to reality thanks to a new financing package developed by MassDevelopment and PeoplesBank.

Girls Inc. recently announced the closing of financing on a $2,275,000 MassDevelopment revenue bond for the new program center in Holyoke. PeoplesBank was the purchaser of the bond, continuing the bank’s longtime support of Girls Inc. of the Valley. MassDevelopment enhanced the bond with a $455,000 mortgage insurance guarantee.

The newly renovated, 16,000-square foot facility will allow the organization to consolidate its programs at one location. It will include a cutting-edge STEM makers’ space, a library, two multi-purpose rooms, a teen lounge, a kitchen and dining area, and administrative offices.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue our support of Girls Inc. of the Valley and be a part of this exciting project,” said Vicky Crouse, senior vice president, Commercial Banking at PeoplesBank. “Their mission to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold by providing them the opportunity to develop and achieve their full potential is one that we embrace as well.”

Dan Rivera, president and CEO of MassDevelopment, noted that “Girls Inc. has a proven track record of supporting girls in all their academic and social endeavors, while also empowering them to unlock the best version of themselves. We are pleased to partner with PeoplesBank to help this nonprofit purchase a new building in Holyoke to call home.”

Added Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley, “what a powerful statement this makes to the youth we serve, that so many of our leaders on this project, from engineering and design to financing and legal, to construction and capital campaign, are strong, smart, and bold women.”

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HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley will host “Speaking Out: Sparking Change” on Tuesday, Oct. 11 in celebration of International Day of the Girl.

The past few years have been difficult for many, for a multitude of reasons. The event will feature inspiring speakers who have begun sparking change in their communities.

Complimentary appetizers will be available during the 6-7 p.m. networking hour, which will feature icebreaker activities led by Girls Inc. of the Valley teens. At 7 p.m., attendees will find their seat and get ready to hear from a panel of bold community leaders, including Tanisha Arena, executive director of Arise for Social Justice; Elizabeth Cardona, executive director of Multicultural Affairs and International Student Life at Bay Path University; and Ysabel Garcia, founder of Estoy Aqui LLC.

The event will take place at Springfield Technical Community College, Building 2, located at 1 Armory St. in Springfield.

“Right now, the message of inspiring hope and effecting change is needed more than ever,” Girls Inc. of the Valley Executive Director Suzanne Parker said. “This incredibly talented and accomplished panel of speakers will share their pathways to leadership with event attendees in the hopes of inspiring folks to spark change in their own communities.”

“Speaking Out: Sparking Change” is sponsored by Aaron’s, Bay Path University, and NWS Fastpitch. The event is open to the public. Tiered tickets are available for purchase by clicking here, with all proceeds benefiting Girls Inc. programming.

Education

Summer Vocation

Eureka! is to increase girls’ confidence

The goal of Eureka! is to increase girls’ confidence in STEM subjects and inspire confidence in STEM careers down the line.

As Emmalene Pirnie thinks about starting college next year, she considers how the past five years in the Eureka! Program at Girls Inc. of the Valley has prepared her for that journey.

“I remember being a shy, nervous seventh-grader. If you had asked me about it then, I probably wouldn’t have answered you,” she said. “The first summer was where I saw how much I loved the community that Girls Inc. built. I loved being able to talk to the staff as friends and the other girls I got to meet. Throughout the past five years, I’d have to say it’s impacted my life in more ways than one.”

She went on to tell BusinessWest that the STEM-focused program made her realize she did enjoy her science, technology, engineering, and mathematics classes in high school; she just didn’t like the way they were being taught.

Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley, explained that stereotypes linger around women not taking an interest in STEM-related learning, and these stereotypes have created a rigid gender divide in the workforce.

“The whole goal, aside from high-school graduation, is to increase confidence in STEM subjects and to inspire confidence in STEM careers in the future,” Parker said. “Having confidence in those skills is going to benefit you no matter the career path you decide to take.”

Suzanne Parker

Suzanne Parker

The program is five summers long, starting the summer after seventh grade. Through a partnership with UMass Amherst and Bay Path University, students are able to explore fully immersive, STEM-based workshops.

Parker explained that half the time is dedicated to exploring different STEM experiences and building exposure, while 25% of the time is focused around personal development, with students learning soft skills needed for jobs, such as leadership, public speaking, and communication. And the last 25% of the time is related to physical health and wellness and comprehensive sexuality education.

“They’re different from other programs in the area — it’s not just teaching the subject; they are doing science, which is different. They’re immersed in their learning,” said Yadilette Rivera-Colón, board chair for Girls Inc. of the Valley. “When we talk about the STEM workshops, it’s not demonstrations. They actually get in, use equipment, and manipulate specimens, stuff like that. It’s a really hands-on experience when they’re at UMass and Bay Path University.”

“ I loved being able to talk to the staff as friends and the other girls I got to meet. Throughout the past five years, I’d have to say it’s impacted my life in more ways than one.”

Workshops, both single-day and multi-day, range from from landscape architecture and regional planning to chemistry and microbiology. Designed to be accessible to youth, the hands-on workshops promote active, engaged learning, to turn their minds on, Parker said.

“It’s incredible stuff they’re doing — and I have to read it because, most times, I don’t even know what they’re doing. They’re working with incredibly well-known researchers in their fields.”

 

Everybody Wins

Parker told BusinessWest that she views the program as a win-win-win. It is a win for Girls Inc. because the impact of the program is high. It is also a win for UMass, as many of the participating professors are writing the Eureka! program into their National Science Foundation grants. They’re required to engage in what are called ‘broader impacts,’ participating in programs and organizations with the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.

“Professors love the Eureka! program because we bring students they want to work with — girls, other gender-oppressed youth, people of color living in the Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke areas — but how do you make those connections?” Parker said. “We bus the kids to them, and the professors volunteer their time.”

Rivera-Colón also added that “the youth have a voice in the program. Sometimes the partnerships are born of things the youth want to explore. So we think about who we know in the community that does X, Y, and Z. From there, we get new partnerships, too.”

The biggest winners in the Eureka! Program, of course, are its scholars. They’re often students from lower-income neighborhoods whose families aren’t able to afford other summer programs. Having a completely accessible and free learning environment provides exposure and multiple opportunities.

“Look at opportunities,” Parker said. “More times than not, STEM careers are well-paying careers. They can really lift up themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty. Making sure there’s access to that type of programming is very important.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 7% of total jobs in the workforce are STEM careers. Within that, about 27% of the workers are women — and 5% of that number are women of color.

“Gender-oppressed people in general are very underrepresented and underserved when they express an interest in science. A lot of it gets squandered by systematic things that happen,” Rivera-Colón said.

She went on to explain that stereotypes, especially around math, are creating barriers for young girls. But actually, girls just have different learning styles than the way concepts have been created by universities.

“Universities were built to cater young, all white men. And a lot of that hasn’t changed to this day, even though women have access to study at those institutions,” she said. “It is up to us at Girls Inc. of the Valley to get our local youth ready to face those challenges and feel like they belong and that they deserve a spot in those programs and careers. The playing field just isn’t leveled for them — they have to do a lot more, so we try to arm them with the tools necessary to be able to move forward.”

Studies suggest that a more diverse group of problem solvers will create more diverse results — which benefits research and society in general because more peoples’ will be catered to.

“There are a lot of big problems in the world, and those problems will go to scientists, engineers, technicians, and mathematicians,” Parker said. “If there are only a small group of people trying to solve the problems that don’t represent the population, then you’re going to get very limited kinds of solutions. Having a broader, diverse group of people that are involved in problem solving is so important.”

Parker told BusinessWest that Girls Inc. of the Valley was chosen be a part of Project Accelerate, a new program through the national Girls Inc. that will track Eureka! scholars that have graduated and help them go on to college and give them the support they need.

“It’s one thing to graduate from high school and get into that engineering program, but what are those supports that will help ensure success through that time period?” Parker said. “We’re really excited about that.”

 

Life Lessons

The Eureka! program was designed to provide a safe and encouraging space for STEM curiosities, but it was built to provide its scholars with much more.

“I’m personally not looking for a career in STEM, but I think the program has taught me much more than what a STEM career has to offer,” Pirnie said. “I learned it’s OK to ask questions and advocate for yourself, especially in underrepresented areas, especially in math and science.”

The West Springfield native isn’t sure yet what major she wants to dive into at college, but is confident in her future journey because of the connections made and skills built by the Eureka! program.

 

Kailey Houle can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News Education News

EASTHAMPTON — Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, announced that the bank has pledged $30,000 over three years to Girls Inc. of the Valley.

The money will be used to help support the organization’s Her Future, Our Future campaign, a $5 million fundraising effort designed to help the organization better meet the needs of girls from under-resourced communities in Hampden County and beyond. Through this campaign Girls Inc. seeks to triple the number of elementary and teen girls served, reaching more than 1,000 girls annually. Efforts include renovating a new dynamic, state-of-the-art headquarters and program center in Holyoke, expanding geographic reach in public schools in Springfield, Chicopee, and beyond, and supporting their innovative Eureka! STEM program that prepares girls for college and career.

“This incredible gift from bankESB to support the Her Future, Our Future campaign shows their impactful commitment to community,” said Suzanne Parker, executive director at Girls Inc. of the Valley. “We are proud to have bankESB’s support as we aim to deliver our research-based, engaging programs to more youth across the Valley — and in our new headquarters.”

The donation was made as part of the bank’s charitable giving program, The Giving Tree, which reflects the roots the bank has in its communities, its commitment to making a real difference in the neighborhoods it serves, and the belief that everyone’s quality of life is enhanced when we work together to solve our communities’ biggest problems.

“Children are our future, and Girls Inc. of the Valley is helping to build that future for young girls with innovative, supportive, and life-changing programs that inspire them to be strong, smart, and bold,” said Sosik. “bankESB is pleased to do its part in supporting Girls Inc. and its efforts to provide a high-quality environment and programs that help elementary school-age and teenage girls unlock their full potential.”

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HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley is inviting the community to join the organization at its newly acquired building for a brief insiders’ tour before the annual Road Race on Saturday, March 19 between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.

Girls Inc. of the Valley recently continued its 40-year history in Holyoke by purchasing the original O’Connell building. Renovations are slated to begin this spring.

“What we need now is the next generation place for Girls Inc.,” said Cynthia Medina Carson, co-chair of the Her Future, Our Future campaign. “As a proud alumna of Girls Inc., I can state with certainty that this facility will do that, enabling our programming to match up to where we want and need to be for girls.”

Added Girls Inc. Executive Director Suzanne Parker, “when renovations are complete, we will have a truly unique program space specifically designed to bring girls ages 5 to 18 together in one building. This will enable our staff to serve over 1,000 participants annually.”

Those who join the tour can learn what Girls Inc. of the Valley has planned for the building while enjoying refreshments and taking advantage of off-street parking in the lot at Hampden and Linden streets to watch the road race afterward.

All Girls Inc. facilities are mask-required spaces. For those who don’t have a mask, Girls Inc. will provide one upon entrance.

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HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley’s Teen Advocacy Board (TAB) has launched a T-shirt sale fundraiser to bring awareness to survivors of sexual assault and abuse. All proceeds from this fundraiser will go to the Survivor Theater Project, an organization that supports survivors of sexual violence.

The teens of Girls Inc. of the Valley have created Project TEAL to let survivors know they are not alone, and that the community wants to support them and hear their voices. A local shop, La Diáspora, will host a pop-up shop for this fundraiser on Tuesday, Feb. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. at 234 Exchange St., Chicopee. Those who contribute a $20 minimum donation will receive a T-shirt.

“I find hypersexualization to be an extremely important topic because, even though I am not the ‘average size,’ I can still be easily hypersexualized,” said TAB member Kaitlyn J. “It can happen to anyone, and we’re here to bring awareness to that.”

The fundraiser location, La Diáspora, is a collaborative space for local creators, run by local creators. All its merchandise has been designed by creatives from Chicopee and neighboring areas. The T-shirts for Project TEAL were created by teens to bring awareness to the reality of sexual violence and sexual harassment toward many, especially women and girls.

“It’s been so powerful to see our Teen Advocacy Board members come together to craft this campaign from the very beginning,” said Becca Neubardt, Girls Inc. of the Valley’s director of Middle and High School Programs. “Many of the TAB members have been affected by sexual harassment and sexual violence either personally or in their close contacts. They have a really clear analysis that the problem is not how someone presents themself, it is the way that our culture and media often treat women and girls as sexual objects and nothing more.”

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HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley has received a generous $1 million gift from the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation in support of its Eureka! program and as part of the Girls Inc. of the Valley campaign, “Her Future, Our Future.” This $1 million commitment will provide approximately two-thirds of the total cost of Eureka! programming over the next five years.

The next five years are important for Eureka! because the program will be taken from its pilot status into a full-fledged model with strong longitudinal outcome data and long-term professional evaluation. With this data and evaluation, the program will have opportunities to attract national-level institutional support, including through the national Girls Inc. network and Girls Inc. of the Valley’s Eureka! partner, UMass Amherst.

In order to continue to build opportunities for girls in the region, Girls Inc. is conducting its first major capital campaign. The “Her Future, Our Future” campaign is a bold initiative designed to significantly increase tangible opportunities for girls to develop confidence and interest in achieving academic and personal success. With STEM careers from nursing to engineering to lab sciences to computer programming playing an ever-more important role in the workforce, Eureka! provides a major opportunity to open up those career pathways to more than 120 girls per year and to position those girls for success in gaining access to higher education. Overall, “Her Future, Our Future” will support significant expansion at Girls Inc., to the point that it will serve approximately 5% of all girls in the Holyoke, Springfield, and Chicopee public-school systems.

The campaign seeks to raise $5 million to accomplish three critical strategic goals: building a permanent home in downtown Holyoke; expanding school-based programming in Holyoke, Chicopee, and Springfield; and advancing and sustaining Eureka! by securing the program and solidifying its role as an important regional pipeline to higher education and STEM careers.

“The Elaine Nicpon Marieb Foundation’s investment in Girls Inc. and Eureka! is truly indicative of their commitment to creating tangible pathways to brighter futures for girls,” said Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley. “Their dedicated support of our Eureka! program, which encourages girls to explore opportunities in STEM and higher education, aligns with that priority. We are so grateful to the foundation’s trustees for their partnership, their generosity, and their belief in the work that we do at Girls Inc. of the Valley. This is a transformational commitment for us and an anchor gift to the ‘Her Future, Our Future’ campaign.”

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HOLYOKE — Girls Inc., the national organization that inspires girls to be strong, smart, and bold, has received $10 million in funding as one of four awardees selected by the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge to benefit its Project Accelerate program. Project Accelerate aims to expand the power and influence of women in the U.S. by 2030.

Building on Girls Inc.’s evidence-based programming, Project Accelerate addresses inequality in the workplace, particularly the absence of women of color in positions of influence and leadership. The program will accelerate young women’s trajectories through college and career entry, leveraging partnerships with corporations and social-impact organizations to ensure both their preparation and their access to positions of influence. Project Accelerate will also reduce the gender gap by working with young women starting as early as their junior year in high school to ensure they have the resources and support to thrive as leaders. Through a network of 78 affiliates, including here in the Pioneer Valley, Project Accelerate aims to lift 5,400 diverse women into corporate positions of power and influence, shifting the equity landscape for generations.

“The $10 million in funding secured by Girls Inc. National for Project Accelerate from the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge will be instrumental in addressing and dismantling gender inequalities in the workplace,” said Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley. “We are so thrilled for our national organization and the affiliates all over the country who will be piloting the program over the course of the next year, and we look forward to rolling out Project Accelerate at Girls Inc. of the Valley in the future.”

Project Accelerate will prepare thousands of young women leaders not merely to succeed in workplace environments, but also to affect cultural change from within. Expected outcomes include an increased number of young women graduating on time, an increased network of influence for girls from historically marginalized groups, and job placement in high-paying positions of leadership. In doing so, women will acquire the means and the opportunity to elevate their status, as well as their families, neighborhoods, communities, and organizations.

“A generation of bold young women stands ready to lead change in the world. Yet entrenched, inequitable systems prevent them from having the opportunities and resources they need to succeed,” said Girls Inc. President and CEO Stephanie J. Hull. “Girls Inc. is proven to make a positive difference in the lives of girls. Support from the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge for Project Accelerate extends the proven Girls Inc. experience through college and into early careers. The investment also supports change in the companies that employ these young leaders. In its insistence on justice and equity for women, Project Accelerate advances equality for all.”

The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, which launched in 2020, is the first competition centered on gender equality in the U.S. with an award of this magnitude and represents an opportunity to invest in and empower women leaders who bring a wide range of lived experiences to their work to advance women’s power and influence in the U.S.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley has raised more than $67,000 to date from its Spirit of Girls 2021 event, which will help support ongoing program needs.

The virtual event was held on May 6 and was attended by notable women such as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, Mount Holyoke College leadership fellow and political figure Carmen Yulín Cruz, actress Tequilla Whitfield, WWLP weeknight anchor Ciara Speller, and Girls Inc. President and CEO Stephanie Hull.

Girls Inc. of the Valley has had to opt for safer, virtual options, which is why this year’s Spirit of Girls event was held 100% virtually. Attendees heard directly from girls, staff, and notable celebrities regarding the importance of celebrating their place at the table. Girls Inc. of the Valley will be posting a link to a video of the event on its YouTube channel, where it will still accept monetary gifts as well.

“We are so thrilled to have had such strong, smart, and bold role models volunteer to lend their voices to Spirit of Girls 2021,” said Suzanne Parker, Girls Inc. of the Valley’s executive director.

Girls Inc. of the Valley aims to inspire all girls to see themselves as leaders with the skills and capabilities to improve and influence their local communities.

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HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley announced that its HERstory Trivia Night virtual event will take place on Thursday, March 25 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. This event will help Girls Inc. of the Valley celebrate Women’s History Month along with those in the community and raise $500 to support Girls Inc. programming.

Girls Inc. of the Valley and the Young Professional Society (YPS) of Greater Springfield will host this event, which will have three rounds of trivia celebrating the accomplishments of women past and present, and prizes for the top three finishers. The event requires a minimum donation of $10 to Girls Inc. of the Valley upon registration. Participants may register by clicking here.

“YPS is proud to partner on this unique event with Girls Inc. of the Valley to help make a positive impact for girls in our community and beyond with learning and leadership opportunities,” said Amie Miarecki, YPS president.

Girls Inc. of the Valley aims to inspire all girls to see themselves as leaders with the skills and capabilities to improve and influence their local communities.

“We have a lot of trivia fans on staff here at Girls Inc.,” said Suzanne Parker, the organization’s executive director. “We thought, ‘what better way to celebrate Women’s History Month than with some HERstory trivia?’ We are excited to welcome the community to this fun and interactive event.”

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HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley received a $145,000 grant from the Amelia Peabody Foundation, which will enable the organization to further develop its virtual programming, help prepare for the time when in-person programs may resume, continue its Learning Pod collaboration with Holyoke Public Schools, and ultimately bring staff together in one building, fostering even greater creative and collaborative synergies.

The foundation awarded $25,000 to Girls Inc.’s general program and $120,000 to its comprehensive campaign, “Her Future, Our Future.” This commitment will help Girls Inc. to establish a new, permanent home and provide the space, resources, and opportunities needed to enable more girls to participate in the transformative Girls Inc. experience. The grant will support both program planning and implementation; funds will be used for staffing, expanded outreach, and program supplies. Additionally, the grant will facilitate bringing all Girls Inc. staff together under one roof to create greater collaborative and economic efficiencies.

“We truly value and appreciate the continued support of the Amelia Peabody Foundation,” said Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley. “We thank them for this tremendous generosity toward operations and our campaign, which will be made over the next two years.”

Girls Inc. of the Valley aims to inspire all girls to see themselves as leaders with the skills and capabilities to improve and influence their local communities. The goals of its Staying Connected with Girls Project are to:

• Successfully engage girls during this period of extreme isolation, providing fun and skill-building activities paired with mentoring support from our trained staff;

• Maximize growth opportunities that virtual programming provides to reach a broader cross-section of girls and gain new volunteers; and

• Position Girls Inc. of the Valley to be ready to seamlessly transition back to in-person programming when appropriate.

“The Amelia Peabody Foundation’s support will be instrumental as we expand and enhance Girls Inc. of the Valley’s center and school-based programs in Holyoke, Springfield, Chicopee, and beyond, and give 1,000-plus girls per year the chance they deserve,” Parker said.

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HOLYOKE — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced that a portion of the proceeds from Pinkie Promises, her new children’s book debuting this fall, will go to Girls Inc. of the Valley, as well as several other Girls Inc. chapters in Massachusetts. The book features illustrations by Charlene Chua.

“We are completely blown away by this incredible act of generosity from Senator Warren,” said Suzanne Parker, Girls Inc. of the Valley’s executive director. “For the senator to think of Girls Inc. in this way is so special, and we are humbled to be among the Massachusetts Girls Inc. affiliates to receive this honor.”

Girls Inc. of the Valley aims to inspire all girls to see themselves as leaders with the skills and capabilities to improve and influence their local communities.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley received a $2,000 grant from the Rotary Club of Springfield to support Girls Inc. of the Valley’s “Bridge the Digital Divide” project. This donation will help girls and their families overcome social and economic stressors during this pandemic.

In the midst of the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for positive, girl-focused, youth-development programming is stronger than ever. Girls who were already dealing with adverse childhood experiences like poverty and racism need additional support during these challenging times, and this donation from the Rotary Club of Springfield will allow both organizations to help serve the community.

Many of the girls have been asking if Girls Inc.’s Eureka! STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education program will happen during the summer of 2021. To ensure the safety of their participants, staff, and volunteers, Girls Inc. will provide Eureka! University, a virtual version of the program, this summer.

Girls Inc. of the Valley aims to inspire all girls to see themselves as leaders with the skills and capabilities to improve and influence their local communities, and its leaders are concerned that COVID-19 will widen the existing digital divide between those with ready access to computers and the internet and those without these resources. Currently, five Springfield Eureka! participants do not have the technology to access virtual programming. Girls Inc. of the Valley’s “Bridge the Digital Divide” project will provide each girl with a Chromebook and wi-fi capability to ensure her ability to participate in Eureka! University this summer, and continue Eureka! programming during the school year.

“We are so grateful to the Springfield Rotary Club for this grant to fund our ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ project,” said Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley. “It is critical for girls to have the technology they need to succeed in order to grow up healthy, educated, and independent. This generous grant will provide access to technology that is crucial for girls in the Valley.”

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HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley received a donation of 90 backpacks for their elementary-school girls from the Junior League of Greater Springfield (JLGS).

Girls Inc. of the Valley aims to inspire all girls to see themselves as leaders with the skills and capabilities to improve and influence their local communities. This donation from JLGS, a nonprofit organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, allows both organizations to accomplish their missions.

The Junior League of Greater Springfield is committed to the promotion of literacy and serving women and children in the community. With the backpack-donation project, its volunteers recognized an urgent need for the girls of the Pioneer Valley and jumped into service, Assistant Treasurer Jaime Margolis said. “It has never been more important to us to help lift and support young women in our community. We hope to continue to build on the relationship between Girls Inc. of the Valley and Junior League of Greater Springfield for a long time to come.”

JLGS aims to improve the lives of children and families in the community by collaborating with other organizations to assist families in need and to promote literacy and education. This directly aligns with the mission of Girls Inc. of the Valley, helping both parties accomplish their goals.

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HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley recently launched its new initiative, She Votes, with a recorded video from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren to educate and support future women voters. The goal is to make sure every girl sees herself as a voter, knows the process, and is ready when it’s her turn.

The Girls Inc. team are experts on girls and their development, both locally and nationally. Girls Inc. of the Valley is part of a 150-year-old organization that always puts girls first, inspiring them as they grow into strong, smart, and bold women. The privilege of voting is our most powerful agent of change.

Meanwhile, only 14 states in the U.S. allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, and Massachusetts is one of them. Girls Inc. of the Valley aims to pre-register as many 16- and 17-year-old girls as possible in this community-wide volunteer effort and to launch a peer fundraising campaign to support the She Votes curriculum. She Votes and Girls Inc. has received commitments from a variety of sponsors, including MassMutual, Peerless Precision, Lotus & Compass Inc., and Chikmedia. Click here to see Warren’s video.

“Girls Inc. teaches us that today’s girls are tomorrow’s leaders,” the senator said. “I want every girl in Massachusetts and across the country to know they can get out there and make their voices heard. Once you turn 16, you can pre-register to vote here in Massachusetts. You don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to be ready for the next election.”

The campaign launched earlier this week on UNICEF’s International Day of the Girl, and will last through Saturday, Oct. 24. Girls Inc. of the Valley hosted a Facebook Live event to premier the launch video from Warren and will be showing video spotlights from a variety of other influential women in politics throughout the campaign. Their goal is to highlight, through these videos, the importance of voting and having women in elected office. The She Votes campaign will take place right here in the Valley, while simultaneous media activities will take place across the U.S. and the globe.

The She Votes campaign is a bold initiative designed to significantly move the needle on providing tangible opportunities for Pioneer Valley girls to achieve academic and personal success. This initiative will help Girls Inc. of the Valley members to learn and share with their families the voting process, and be ready to become a generation of activists accelerating social change.

If interested, or have questions regarding this initiative, contact Jessica Colson at (413) 319-0011 or [email protected].

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley has launched its new initiative, She Votes, with a recorded video from Senator Elizabeth Warren to educate and support our future of women voters. The goal is to make sure every girl sees herself as a voter, knows the process, and is ready when it’s her turn. They’ve launched this campaign with two primary goals:

The Girls Inc. team are experts on girls and their development, both locally and nationally. Girls Inc. of the Valley is part of a 150-year-old organization that always puts girls first, inspiring them as they grow into strong, smart, and bold women. The privilege of voting is our most powerful agent of change. Only 14 states in the United States allow 16 and 17 year-olds to pre-register to vote, and Massachusetts is one of them. Girls Inc. of the Valley aims to pre-register as many 16- and 17-year-old girls as possible in this community-wide volunteer effort and to launch a peer fundraising campaign, to support the She Votes curriculum.

She Votes and Girls Inc. has received commitments from a variety of sponsors including MassMutual, Peerless Precision, Lotus & Compass Inc., and Chikmedia.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s video can be found on the Girls Inc. of the Valley Website and Facebook page:

“Girls Inc. teaches us that today’s girls are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Senator Warren. “I want every girl in Massachusetts and across the country to know they can get out there and make their voices heard. Once you turn 16, you can pre-register to vote here in Massachusetts. You don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to be ready for the next election.”

The campaign launched October 1, on UNICEF’s International Day of the Girl, and will last through October 24. Girls Inc. of the Valley hosted a Facebook Live event to premier the launch video from Senator Elizabeth Warren and will be showing video spotlights from a variety of other influential women in politics throughout the campaign. Their goal is to highlight the importance of voting and having women in elected office with these videos. The She Votes campaign will take place right here in the Valley; simultaneously national and international media activities will take place all across the globe.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley is sharing a new campaign on social media this week, called #BlackGirlFuture. 

Girls Inc. of the Valley has created social-media graphics and messaging addressing both disparities that impact girls and the future the organization wants to see for them. #BlackGirlFuture will consist of social-media posts across multiple platforms with a graphic and accompanying message each day to encourage girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Upon completion of #BlackGirlFuture, Girls Inc. of the Valley aims to have inspired all girls to see themselves as leaders with the skills and capabilities to improve and influence their local communities. 

Girls Inc. of the Valley’s Instagram account is @girlsincvalley. Anyone interested in the campaign or with questions regarding #BlackGirlFuture may e-mail Jessica Colson at [email protected].

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley is looking to the community for support as it launches Project Red on Menstrual Hygiene Day, Thursday, May 28, to collect donations of essential wellness supplies that will benefit girls in the Pioneer Valley. Project Red’s mission is to supply 500 girls in the Valley with a four-month supply of menstrual products. 

Access to essential menstrual products has been challenging due to COVID-19, as many girls relied on schools or after-school programs for their menstrual-product needs. Many families are having to choose between purchasing these products or purchasing food. Girls Inc. of the Valley is looking to the community to help lead the charge in supporting girls in the community by encouraging the creation of fundraising pages, donations of supplies, and help spreading the word across social platforms. Girls Inc. will accept donations of a variety of new and unopened products: toothpaste, body wash, bars of soap, toothbrushes, deodorant, menstrual pads with wings, and monetary gifts. It has received support for Project Red in the form of a $1,500 grant from Health New England.

Donations will be accepted at the Girls Inc. of the Valley headquarters at 6 Open Square Way in Holyoke on May 28 from 1 to 5 p.m. Contactless, curbside dropoff will be offered.

A monetary donation or creation of a fundraising page can be made by following these simple steps: visit www.givegab.com/campaigns/project-red, select ‘make a donation’ or ‘start fundraising,’ and follow the step-by-step instructions to create a fundraising page.

“As Girls Inc. of the Valley staff members continued to reach out to our girls, the need for menstrual products became abundantly clear,” Executive Director Suzanne Parker said. “We are launching Project Red to ensure girls in the Valley have access to these essential products, and we invite the community to join us in our efforts. Health New England, an amazing community partner, has already stepped up to provide a $1,500 grant to support Project Red.” 

Project Red is an initiative that directly aligns with Girls Inc. of the Valley’s healthy sexuality curriculum and mission to inspire and prepare all girls to develop and achieve their full potential, and that begins with putting their wellness needs first. All partners understand how important it is for Girls Inc. to be there for girls right now, especially during trying times due to COVID-19.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Women Empowered, a group that strives to promote body positivity and acceptance for both adult women and future generations of girls, has donated $2,500 in proceeds of its Women Empowered calendar sales to Girls Inc. of the Valley. The receipt of this gift will support Girls Inc. of the Valley’s current research-based program offerings designed to empower girls, and will provide a boost in its annual fundraising efforts.

“The mission of Women Empowered is to help expand and challenge our society’s limited standards of beauty,” said Michelle Crean, founder of Women Empowered. “We have chosen to have all proceeds from the sale of the calendars go to Girls Inc. of the Valley because their mission of making all girls strong, smart, and bold aligns with our mission.”

The Women Empowered calendar features a diverse group of everyday women who have embraced their uniqueness, have overcome physical and mental obstacles, celebrate their bodies, and want to share their story to inspire others. This calendar provides the chance to send a message of body positivity and acceptance in order to teach other women and future generations to embrace the totality of who they are, and use their gifts, their beauty, and their stories to change the world. Everyone involved with the production of the calendar and all sponsors are women-owned businesses.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley will receive a community-benefits discretionary grant of $5,000 from Baystate Health to Girls Inc. of the Valley’s “Informed and In Charge” program, which is designed to teach healthy sexuality.

Through “Informed and In Charge,” girls acquire the knowledge and skills for taking charge of and making informed decisions about their sexual health. Exploring values, practicing responses in different situations, and thinking about their futures helps girls identify ways and reasons to avoid early pregnancy and prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. 

“This wonderful grant from Baystate Health speaks to their commitment to the health and wellness of girls in the Valley,” said Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley. “During these challenging times, it is more crucial than ever to invest in girls, and Baystate Health’s support of our ‘Informed and In Charge’ program is so impactful.” 

As an integrated health system, the advancement of knowledge is a major component of Baystate Health’s mission, aligning with that of Girls Inc. of the Valley. Baystate Health aims to educate and train current and future caregivers through supporting community-based organizations and advancing early interventions in wellness and nutrition.

COVID-19 Daily News

HOLYOKE — Be “strong, smart, and bold” is as much a clarion call to the 800 girls served by Girls Inc. of the Valley as it is to the organization’s staff and mentors, Executive Director Suzanne Parker said.

“In a time when social distancing is becoming more and more important, we recognize the urgent need to maintain a sense of community, support, and love for our girls, who, naturally, will be feeling added anxiety and stress. And so our staff is being strong smart and bold, investigating new ways to deliver creative, safe, and engaging learning to girls,” Parker said.

“As we ramp up, girls and their families can tune in virtually,” she continued. “We are encouraging all students to follow and engage in learning activities offered on Facebook and other platforms. And we are adding learning activities to social media and seeking to add new opportunities for girls to connect with their peers and Girls Inc. facilitators. We want the girls to have the opportunity to stay connected and stay supported during what we all know can be an overwhelming time.

“Many local girls, most coming from already economically stretched households, need all the love and support that they deserve, along with a small sense of normalcy,” Parker concluded. “We are so thankful to our supportive Valley community.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley announced plans for major expansion and the launch of its new campaign. The organization is in the early stages of an ambitious, comprehensive campaign, “Her Future, Our Future,” with three primary goals: to develop a permanent Girls Inc. home in downtown Holyoke; to expand school-based programming in Holyoke, Chicopee, and Springfield; and to extend the Eureka! STEM education program.

To that end, it has received $500,000 in support from the Kendeda Fund, a private grantmaker based in Atlanta. This transformative gift will support the expansion of Girls Inc. of the Valley’s programs and create a stronger network that encourages girls to achieve. Girls Inc. of the Valley is launching this campaign to offer more girls fundamental support and research-based programming. These programs are designed to empower girls and present them with opportunities to navigate barriers they face in school and beyond. More than 85% of the girls who participate in Girls Inc. of the Valley’s programs say they view their future positively and plan to go to college; most will be the first in their families to do so. Girls Inc. hopes the positive and lasting effects of its programs on girls who participate will grow substantially.

A rigorous, comparative study by the American Institutes for Research found that Girls Inc. girls have an advantage over their peers in more than 20 key areas. The findings demonstrate that girls not only thrive at Girls Inc. of the Valley, but they are also more likely than other girls to see themselves as leaders, with the skills and capabilities of influencing and improving their local communities.

While there are more women today in key leadership positions than ever before, there is still a pervasive gender gap in top leadership. The need for qualified science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals in the workforce continues to grow, and women — particularly women of color — continue to be underrepresented in these fields. At the heart of Girls Inc. of the Valley is a comprehensive approach to whole-girl development that equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers and grow up healthy, educated, and independent. The “Her Future, Our Future” campaign is a bold initiative designed to positively influence generational change and provide tangible opportunities for girls in the region to achieve academic and personal success.

“We are so appreciative for the Kendeda Fund’s belief in the importance of girls’ growth and development,” said Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley. “Simply put, we couldn’t have made this happen without an incredible, devoted team of volunteers and staff. This gift has fueled all of us in the early stages of our campaign.”

When the campaign is complete, Girls Inc. of the Valley will serve more than 1,000 girls per year — nearly 5% of the combined female population of the Holyoke, Chicopee, and Springfield public school systems — and be positioned to advance policy initiatives, structures, and best practices to address the unique challenges that await girls, equipping them with the skills and tools to achieve their goals and take charge of their futures.

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