Working Group on Girls of Schenectady

Fall is volunteer recruiting season for the Working Group on Girls of Schenectady, so I wanted to take the opportunity to invite local women to join us!

The Working Group on Girls of Schenectady was initiated by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women 11 years ago. Representatives from local  girl-supporting organizations (a list of affiliated groups is on the left panel of the SWGG home page) began to work together ‘to put the spotlight on girls, facilitate programs on their behalf, and educate the community about their needs, challenges, opportunities and successes.”  For several years WGGS hosted community forums to address the challenges and opportunities that girls faced locally. In the past five years, WGGS has hosted Girls’ Day Out to help support and celebrate Schenectady city girls.

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Now, each fall, seventh graders, many of whom have been specially invited by a school clinician, go on a field trip for a Girls’ Day Out at The Glen Sanders Mansion. It’s basically a girl-power conference, where girls attend workshops on topics like talking to parents, dealing with bullies, or maintaining healthy relationships, listen to a panel discussion by 8th graders on surviving 7th grade, or participate in (and perform) activities like drumming, yoga, or dancing. The girls also enjoy a lovely breakfast and lunch, which is a special treat for everyone.

After the conference, attendees are invited to join a Girls’ Circle at their schools, where small groups meet regularly with a pair of volunteer co-facilitators called Muses. The Muses bring pizza for an informal (often very energetic) gathering in which the girls do most of the talking. Muses facilitate discussions, offer up fun crafts, and advise about things like making goals and working toward them, standing up for yourself without resorting to violence, and making choices for a happy, healthy life. The sessions are kept confidential and a school clinician sits in on the discussion, so Muses can rely on a professional to tackle any situations that require serious intervention. The girls are terrific: they’re fun and smart and they really love being together and bonding with each other.

In April, everyone gets together for a celebration at Schenectady High School,  where the girls can invite a woman whom they consider to be a role model. The girls, their specially-chosen women, and the Muses get an opportunity to celebrate their appreciation for each other’s awesomeness. It’s also a chance for the girls to talk about what the program has meant to them. I was surprised and moved to hear girls, including some from our own circle. talk about how the group had changed for the better how they view themselves, the people around them, and the future and their place in it.  It was beautiful. Muses who are willing and able can continue with the same group as the years progress.

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New Muses attend training in October (3 or 4 evening sessions), they’re invited to attend Girls’ Day Out on November 19th, and they determine a schedule with their Co-Muse and school clinician for the Girls Circles. Most Girls Circles meet during lunch periods or right after school every other week, although some groups choose to meet more frequently. Because so many of the girls we serve are African American, Hispanic, or Indo-Guyanese, prospective Muses who share one or more of these ethnic identities are particularly encouraged to become involved, but any woman who has successfully navigated the sometimes-perilous waters of adolescence is welcome. If being a Muse isn’t for you, there are opportunities to volunteer in other capacities such as helping with special events, offering up your talents as a resource, or providing other support.

If you’d like more information about volunteering, contact Gail Gordon at  518-439-3973 or or Miranda Rand at You can also “like” the Working Group on Girls of Schenectady’ Facebook page.

girls with backpacks photo


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