Girls Leadership Institute committee promotes “I Can” at SCAN
Since 2003, the New York Junior League’s Girls Leadership Institute (GLI) committee has been partnering with Supportive Children’s Advocacy Network (SCAN) to help young girls in East Harlem discover their innate confidence and potential. This year, GLI moved to a new SCAN location – the DeWitt Clinton Community Center at 110th and Lexington – and the committee is working with a new group of girls between the ages of 7 and 11 to encourage them to develop their confidence and leadership potential.
Founded in 1977, SCAN is a non-profit youth and family service organization that provides a variety of integrated services to the highest risk children and families of East Harlem and the South Bronx. At the DeWitt Clinton center, Cynthia Chisholm is the Director, managing a range of adult, teen, and children’s programs. Programs for young girls, like those who participate in the NYJL’s GLI, are relatively new, but they are part of an effort to give young women a sense of empowerment at an early age, which is increasingly recognized to be important for childhood development. Ms. Chisholm has worked for SCAN since 1999, and her goal has always been to help members of the community develop a sense of pride in themselves and to imagine a future with unlimited possibilities.
GLI’s goals fit into this mission perfectly. So far this year, NYJL volunteers have led the girls in activities to create vision boards to help imagine their futures, to use teamwork to solve problems, and to write their own affirmations and make up cheers to go along with them (complete with pom-poms), among other activities. At the end of each lesson, each girl has the opportunity to present her work to the group, and with each week, the girls have felt more confident in themselves. Indeed, according to Ms. Chisholm, GLI’s value lies in making the girls think and giving them a sense of empowerment to achieve their potential. As the NYJL volunteers and girls shout each week, when reciting the GLI affirmation: “I will not use the word ‘can’t’ to define my possibilities.”
According to Ms. Chisholm: “with the kids, you know you are succeeding based on the welcome you get each week.” If she is right, then GLI is certainly achieving its goals; each lesson starts with an enthusiastic greeting from the girls, who increasingly believe that they can do or be anything they set their minds to.