Last week, a little white bus full of Hassayampa Elementary School fifth graders traveled the town of Wickenburg, exploring businesses operated by successful women. The girls were a part of “Girl Power,” sponsored locally by Business and Professional Women (BPW). The field trip was one example of the innovative program that instills in young woman that anything is possible, if they will only believe, and go for it.
Girl Power is a program created by WomanStory Inc., a Phoenix based non-profit organization that strongly believes in creating “circles of strong women.”
The program entered the Wickenburg school district through Rachel Willis, a guidance counselor for Wickenburg High School.
“Six years ago, I went through the training to be a Girl Power leader and was excited about how we could bring it back to Wickenburg for girls here,” Willis said. “Girl Power had lots of elements that are important…and we took those and tailored them to our after school program.”
The program begins with fourth and fifth grade girls who are selected to participate through their guidance counselor. The elementary school girls have a direct attachment to the high school, where WHS students become Girl Power leaders and mentor the younger girls at the high school. When the younger girls travel to WHS and get off the bus, the leaders are there to greet them, making for a secure and comfortable experience, an environment that Girl Power strives to create.
Each week the girls participate in a different session focused on experiences that affirm what it means to be a girl and a woman.
“At its core, the program is about promoting the potential of all girls and helping girls see their own potential,” Willis explained. “Each week we work on a different skill.”
The girls gather into groups and discuss their dreams, goals, etc., something they call, “breaking the ice.” This helps each girl realize the similarities between them and breaks down insecurities. The girls create skits that teach them how to be good friends, stay healthy inside and out, and helps them utilize social skills that will be used throughout their lives.
The program ends with a graduation ceremony, where the high school girls crown their young participants.
The program is free, and next year Willis hopes to expand to the junior high level.
“BPW’s sponsorship has allowed the program not only to expand, but also to include a community component,” Willis said, referring to the field trip to local businesses. “The community was so generous and the girls got to see women in their professions and hear about what they do in that field and also what advice they had for girls interested in that profession.”
Girl Power is currently seeking volunteers. Anyone interested should contact Willis at WHS.