By Katie Sobiech
This month, 3 mini-grants will be awarded by Girltopia: Akron. The grants will allow girls, grades 6-12, from the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio (GSNEO) program to make their dreams to improve the city come true.
Girltopia, launched in September 2012, offers recipients the opportunity to shine in their communities through their very own, “Take Action”, projects.
Seventy-five girls have accepted this call-to-action, brainstorming and putting in the work to create ideas that would make Akron a better place.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation provided the GSNEO with a $50,000 grant to support the program.
“It’s really an exciting project. Girl Scouts is known for community action and engagement, so we’re excited that the Knight Foundation has partnered with us to give us the dollars to move it forward,” Emily fletcher, Director of Programs at GSNEO, said.
Filling in the Gaps through Leadership
So why this, and why now?
“About 5 years ago a national organization took a look at what was happening across the country and really wanted to re-define what girl scouting was all about. What it came down to was that it’s a leadership program for young women. Our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place,” Fletcher said.
They took steps from there, connecting with the Knight Foundation, with whom they founded Girltopia.
“It’s based on the (Girl Scouts) core curriculum which is all about advocacy,” Fletcher explained of their program called ‘It’s Your World – Change It’.
This endeavor allows young girls to spot problems in the community that they would like to change, gives them the platform to voice their concerns, and provides training to take action.
“We want girls to be able to identify community needs in Akron and feel empowered to make a difference, inspire and educate others to act, and engage the community as well. We want to inspire people to participate in ‘Take Action’ projects. We know that these projects will improve the community,” Fletcher said.
Learning from Successful Women
GSNEO started with a symposium in September of 2012 held at the University of Akron. The girls participated in various workshops and presentations there.
Local women of influence have also been there along the way to encourage the girls.
This includes, Councilwoman Linda F.R. Omobien, Judge Amy Corrigall Jones, Vice President of FDA lending at First Merit Bank Ramona Davis, and Director of Finance Diane Miller-Dawson, also from First Merit. All of these women attended the girls’ first meeting to show support.
“Girls asked questions, interacted with them and talked about ways that they might change the city, or the process they would have to go through to make that happen,” Fletcher explained.
They also recently presented their ideas at the Knight Foundation breakfast. Fifteen girls attended, many of whom spoke in front of the adults about their projects. Here’s a video to watch jumpstartakron
The girls wrapped up most of their work on their proposals and are now anxiously anticipating who will be awarded.
Make sure to check out Part Two on what kinds of projects the girls are working on, how they’re making them sustainable and how you can still get involved!