Our Commitment to Empowering Girls in 2017 by Girls in the Game Staff

At Girls in the Game, we are committed to empowering girls in 2017. Through sports, health and leadership we will continue to provide girls with safe spaces to find their strength and become gamechangers in their communities.

Members of our community share their personal pledges on how they will continue to support and invest in girls in the new year.

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Members of Teen Squad leading stretches with Elementary School Girls.

“In 2017, I will help girls empower themselves by giving them the tools to grow, express themselves and learn in a creative, fun, and engaging way. I will approach our programming with openness and curiosity so that I can always learn from the girls as much (and probably more) than they learn from me. I will provide ways for girls to use their voices to advocate for their needs and wants, so that our programming can truly help cultivate a thriving generation of powerful, thoughtful, resilient, and confident girl leaders.”

-Elizabeth White, Teen Programs Manager

 

“My commitment to girls for the new year is to provide safe spaces for girls to be heard. I will work hard to lead a team of coaches who make listening a top priority and allow the voices of girls to guide our service to them.”

-Katherine Wajrowski, Partnerships and City Wide Initiatives Manager

 

“I’m committed to empowering girls by working to help them develop the tools they need to be their own advocates. As much as we adults can work to change the world around us, the best thing we can give girls is the confidence and ability to speak to their own issues, needs and desires. A girl with a powerful voice is a force to be reckoned with.”

-Jess Larson, Development Coordinator

 

I am committed to empowering girls in the 2017 by setting higher professional goals and modeling the healthy lifestyle practices we teach to the girls we serve.”

-Madie Anderson, Grants Coordinator

 

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Meghan’s daughter Jane-already dressed like a Girl in the Game!

“In 2017, it is more important than ever for Girls in the Game to continue empowering girls to grow as leaders. We have a unique responsibility to not only help girls discover their own voices, but to elevate their voices so that more people are aware that girls are strong and capable of changing the world.

Personally, I take that responsibility very seriously and in 2017 I’ll continue to work hard to ensure that the needs of the girls we serve remain the deciding factor when making decisions and determining Girls in the Game’s future growth. And while I’m not sure my 2-year-old daughter, Jane, needs any help elevating her voice, I’ll do my best to ensure that she never feels her voice or her opinion matter any less because she’s a girl.”

-Meghan Morgan, Chief Operating Officer


What is your commitment to empower girls in 2017? We’d love to hear from you! Please comment below or tag us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook @GirlsintheGame. Let’s share our commitments to changing our community one girl at a time.

How Girls Choose to be Confident by Kate Nilles

 

Since joining Girls in the Game in August, I have had the incredible opportunity to work alongside strong and passionate women, who come together to fuel the next generation of female leaders. I have seen first-hand the confidence and camaraderie that forms in girls from having an after-school program dedicated to cultivating their strengths and talents. I am excited to be a part of over 60 girls’ lives every week, and to open a space for them to play, to think, to grow and to recognize the power that each of them has.

Part of my work as an After School Coordinator is to go into the schools we work with and recruit girls to join our program. Many silly lunchtime conversations and questions about what exactly we do at Girls in the Game have led to new girls willing to “try it out”, and then staying with us through the end of the season. I’ve noticed that all too often boys in the class interrupt our lunchtime conversations saying, “I’m a girl, can I have a form?” in a high-pitched, mocking voice. I watch girls shy away from me as class clowns take center stage to convince girls that playing sports is for boys, and that it’s weird for girls to have their own program.

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One of Kate’s Junior Coaches from middle school teaches the elementary school girls how to “Wave the Flag” while dancing to Beyonce’s “Move Your Body.”

In having that time after school for individualized opportunities to try new sports, make new friends and learn what it means to lead a healthy life, we give girls a safe space to challenge themselves and show their power. They are able to get to know girls in their school, who they may not know otherwise. This all happens in those moments when we’re sharing crazy dance moves while playing “Little Sally Walker”, discussing what foods are good and bad for us, or acting out how to handle peer pressure scenarios.

Watching the girls who shied away from me in the lunchroom before approach me with confidence after a few short weeks in the program, and encourage the other girls in their class to join Girls in the Game, demonstrates the value this program has. Sure, there are girls in the program who have yet to recognize their strength and their uniqueness, but that is the reason we come back week after week. I am here, as a coach, to support each girl as she realizes she is strong, resilient, thoughtful, kind, funny and powerful. So much growth has occurred in our last ten weeks of after school programming, and I can’t wait to see where the girls will be in the next twenty weeks of programming and beyond.

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Girls in Kate’s program read a scenario before acting out how they would respond to seeing one of their peers being bullied.

 

Finding My Own Sense of Power by Tiffany Francis

My time at Girls in the Game has focused on two major life lessons. The importance of teamwork, and the possibility of transformation and growth.

The Power of Teamwork

I am a recent college graduate, and Girls in the Game is my first full-time position in the working world. I have worked on plenty of group projects, but I have now realized that none of it has prepared me for teamwork in a job setting, despite what my professors said. Making a Google document and having two meetings for a group paper is nothing compared to working with co-coaches to carry out programing at Girls in the Game.

Working as a team in this setting means constant communication, constant readjustments to plans, and constant reminders of the goal (creating great programs for girls) especially when things get tough. All lessons that I learned on the basketball court.

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In basketball, constant communication with your team, reacting to plays on defense, and keeping your mind on the main objective of winning the game are a few of the things you learn. Although Girls in the Game does not focus on winning and competition, we do focus on correct technique and learning perseverance so that you always try your best even when participating a new sport. By teaching more than sports at Girls in the Game, it is easy for us to help our girls translate the lessons and skills they learned on the court to our leadership and health lessons.

We use teamwork during skits, and constantly remind the girls that even when things do not go the way they planned, they need to encourage each other and work together to find a way to accomplish their goal.

During one After School session, our girls created skits depicting positive ways to react to peer pressure. We gave them 10 minutes to come up with their skit and rehearse before performing. When the groups presented their skits, some girls had forgotten their parts or spoke so softly that we were unable to hear them. So, we stopped the skit to give them time to regroup.

We offered them some pointers, and they talked amongst themselves before coming back with a little more confidence than they had before. When they performed their improved skit, we all gave them praise and encouragement.

During the skit, things did not always go the way the girls thought they would, but instead of getting frustrated with each other or embarrassed, they worked together as a team to perform the best skit that they could. I believe that when the girls learn how to communicate through sports, and then practice using their communication skills during activities like the skits, that they will find it easier to apply these skills outside of Girls in the Game activities.

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Growing Into a Leader

Playing sports and being active has always come natural to me. Growing up, I played basketball in my backyard, and was always running around and playing tag at recess. Because I have always loved to be active and know the importance of helping girls find their voice in this male-dominated society, it seemed like a no-brainer to join Girls in the Game in their mission.

Although sports were very much in my comfort zone, I have found that my work here as the Partnerships and Citywide Initiatives Coordinator has made me work on other parts of myself that I was not expecting. I am a recent graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA, a school that focused on creating women leaders to go out and change the world.

I was constantly told that I was a good leader and had a lot of potential. I believed these things and participated in many leadership opportunities. One of the opportunities that I had as a student leader was being the President of the group, Truth in Chaos. We focused on media literacy and discussions about the positive and negative impact music, television and movies that we consume have on our culture.

I had a few members on my executive board with whom I had a pretty good relationships before I started the club. It was a small club, and we hosted meetings on whatever topic we felt like, meaning discussions were always fun. We did not have many members, but that was okay with us because those who did attend were very passionate about the discussion topics.

However, being a leader in a student organization at a small college is quite different than the position that I am in now. I am not a very talkative person and communication is not always my strong suit, but my job as the Partnerships and Citywide Initiatives Coordinator means I must constantly communicate with my team of interns to plan and carry out Game Days. I am also creating relationships with new schools and leading Game Days which are the first impression that a school receives from Girls in the Game. I must ensure that things run as smoothly as possible and that the girls receive a great program. Communicating as a coordinator for organizational events is quite different from just leading discussions with a group of friends.

Being a great communicator is something that I want to improve on while working at Girls in the Game. Many girls in our program may not consider themselves to be athletic, but Girls in the Game is a place for them to try sports and to be active in a safe space. The most rewarding thing for me is seeing a girl try something she thought she wasn’t good at or was afraid of, and watching her succeed. I hope that by the time I complete my year of service at Girls in the Game that I can feel that same sense of accomplishment in my growth as a leader.

How Sports Made Me a Successful Businesswoman By Carly DeMarco & Amanda Kennedy

You never know where the lessons you learned on the field will lead you. Meet the Co-Founders of  Independently Driven; Carly DeMarco and Amanda Kennedy. Their experiences playing softball have turned them into successful businesswomen.

Amanda decided to create Independently Driven when she realized that she needed to be creative to find success in her career. Similar to the lesson she learned playing softball, she knew she had to think outside the lines to make her dreams a reality. Amanda shares her success story below:

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Make Your Own Position 

Out of all of the sports I played, softball was closest to my heart. It made me realize that no matter what I felt I was good at, I had to push myself to be better.  I was a pitcher, and I loved every second I was in the game. However, on my high school team there was another pitcher, and she was fast! There was no way I could pitch faster than her, so I had to find another strategy to be a starter.  I took private lessons to learn how to be a “junk” pitcher, and I practiced improving my hitting.  This allowed me to be the go-to pitcher when teams could hit fast balls and slotted me in as a designated hitter when I wasn’t scheduled to pitch. 

To this day I have taken that lesson with me; I never give up even if I have to find another way to make my skills relevant, or differentiate my skill set to support my team. Never give up on making yourself better and realizing the role that you are meant to play.

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Carly is a competitor who never quits. When Amanda came to her with the idea for Independently Driven, Carly was ready to join the team. She believes in taking control of your own destiny and doesn’t allow failure or set-backs to stop her.  Carly shares her path to success below:

Take the Wheel 

The sport I was most passionate about growing-up was softball, hands down.  I grew up on the field, and learned countless lessons about the sport and life itself.  I learned that practice is important, and if you want something, you have to work hard to get it. Nothing was going to be handed to me; it needed to be earned.

I was a utility player, meaning I could play multiple positions, which allowed me to almost always have a starting position. In college, we traveled a lot. We would leave Chicago on Thursday and play four to five games throughout the weekend before heading home.  

One weekend my junior year, we were traveling to Las Vegas where my family planned to meet us. Unfortunately, they missed the first game, which happened to be the only game I played in that weekend.  I wasn’t hurt; physically, there was nothing wrong with me, but I was not performing so my coach sat me on the bench.  That was a very humbling feeling, especially with my family there to watch me.  I felt like I had let them down. 

Through my 15+ years of playing sports, nothing made me more determined to improve than that weekend.  I went back to practice the following week and was more driven than ever to improve my skills. I wanted my spot back. Life will always give you moments that remind you to never stop improving or take things for granted.    

When I look back on my experience on the field and compare it to my corporate job, I see how I am a starter every day.  I am constantly encouraging myself to be better and learn as much as possible.  I want to be the best team player that I can, and always stand out as a leader to my colleagues.  We support Girls in the Game because it is an amazing organization that teaches girls these values from a young age.  

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Life is a journey full of trials and growth, challenges and lessons. Girls in the Game works with girls every single day to help them find their voice and confidence. Each of us posseses the ability to get back up and to create an opportunity for ourselves. We hope that every girl in our program learns how to harness her own confidence through sports, and has the courage to stand up for herself in any circumstance.

Thank you Carly and Amanda for being courageous. You can shop their athletic products in time for the holidays. (Perfect stocking stuffers!) A portion of their proceeds goes directly to Girls in the Game.

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Becoming Gamechangers by Maritza Jaimes

This is why I am most attracted to Girls in the Game: we are dedicated to helping girls become future leaders by giving them the right tools. Girls in the Game understands that there are certain communities that can benefit more from programs like ours, communities such as the girls at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC). When I first started, I really believed in the power of these girls to become gamechangers, and I know the rest of the staff did too.

As I have worked with them, the girls at JTDC amaze me every day! And they would amaze you as well if you met them.

Turning Into Leaders

Just a few weeks ago we had a Friends and Family Day where I saw girls take on leadership roles with excitement. The girls literally led the whole event! They were so happy to receive a speaking role to show their parents. In fact, they requested long speaking parts. One of the girls even asked me if she could say her part before her mother had to leave.

I was so excited for the girls because I saw how proud the parents and staff were, and this in turn, made them very proud of themselves. I made certificates for the girls for their extraordinary effort in making Friends and Family Day a success, and I witnessed the girls give their certificates to their parent with pride.

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Making a Connection

A few weeks ago I attended a talent show where I saw the beautiful gifts that these girls possess. One of the girls sang “What is Love?” by Veronica Bozeman and it brought tears to my eyes as I witnessed her family crying in the front row. When I first met this individual, she did not speak to me. She would attend our program, but sit in silence the entire time. After three months, I heard her speak four words to me. I will never forget when she said, “I had fun today,” before walking out.  I remember leaving the detention center and thinking, “Wow, she spoke to me!!”

After that I began to hear more and more from her. Now, she makes me laugh so hard that I literally feel my lungs hurt. I later learned that her mother is serving at the Cook County Jail and she is now supported by her grandmother and aunt. The song she sang at the talent show was in dedication to her mother, whom she misses dearly.

What a Leader Looks Like

Last week, during our programming session, we asked girls to draw what a leader looked like to them and explain what qualities made these people leaders. The assignment was very open-ended, and we got varied responses. One of the girls drew her mother and told me that her mother had passed away two years ago. Her mother had been a role model that was always encouraging her to pursue her goals.

Another individual wrote that her leader is a college graduate because that is what she aims to accomplish. She explained that she chose to draw this leader because it is a great goal that she wants to share with everyone. What struck me the most was when one girl wrote how the other girls in our program are leaders to her. She explained how girls at JTDC have given her advice and are encouraging her to make the right decisions once released. How beautiful is that? Our girls are being leaders to each other!

There are countless stories like this that demonstrate the power these girls possess. Each story confirms that these girls have so much more power than I ever imagined. They have faced trauma and violence. They have struggled through many hardships that are too painful for me to speak about. And above all, these girls have the power to be gamechangers, and I witness it every day.

Names have not been used because all juvenile records are private at JTDC.