Girls pose at You Grow Girl, a girls’ empowerment program in North Seattle. Photo courtesy of Lynn Coleman 

Girls pose at You Grow Girl, a girls’ empowerment program in North Seattle. Photo courtesy of Lynn Coleman 

<
1
2
>

Hey, girls! Did you know that Seattle has a bunch of girls’ empowerment programs for adolescents and teens? Check out some of the programs near you.  

Moonpaper Tent

After having four boys, Sylvan Bourgette named her only daughter Ruby Wish because she wished for her. 

With an emphasis on creative performance, Bourgette created Moonpaper Tent (www.moonpapertent.org) in 2005 in North Seattle (8503 Roosevelt Way N.E). 

Moonpaper Tent offers camps, birthday parties and its WAM! (word, art, movement) program for middle school-aged girls. Moonpaper Tent’s policy is “every girl is welcome every time, no matter what.”

WAM! is based on a different word each week. The girls journal, create art and performances. 

“They show off what they’ve created and trust the environment they’re doing that in is safe,” Bourgette said. “Sometimes they’re delving into past personal history and need to be validated.” 

Moonpaper Tent recently received a grant from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture to add a Central girls WAM! group, a monthly LGBTQ group and a high school girls mentorship program, in which girls can earn service learning credits. 

Bourgette sees the potential to go in so many different directions: “I am so grateful for the girls that have been participating and the strong work they’ve done,” she said. 

Northwest Girls Coalition

The Northwest Girls Coalition (nwgirlscoalition.org) began 13 years ago by a group of volunteers from different girls organizations in the city. The coalition formed so the groups could share resources and create a community for girls in Seattle.

The coalition doesn’t have any of its own programs; instead, it serves as an umbrella organization that hosts networking and professional development events. 

The goal of the coalition is to “ensure girls reach their full potential” and to “create a community of groups to provide that,” said Northwest Girls Coalition leadership council president Kendra Kelly. 

In early 2014, it will have a resource fair that brings together different girls organizations. 

As the calendar changes and the coalition continues to grow, Kelly hopes it’ll continue to grow its resource fair and expand its website. 

Outdoor Leadership Development 

The Outdoor Leadership Development (ymcaleadership.com/gold) program began in 1997, with one program at the YMCA and a separate nonprofit, Passages Northwest, said director Courtney Aber.

It has a wilderness program, weekend trips, a two-week leadership camp and a rock-climbing program. All programs have the same basic curriculum for girls ages 10 to 18.

“[We’re] making sure girls [know] what it feels like to be strong,” Aber said. “We spend a lot of time talking to girls about what the media tells them they should look like and act like and taking a real honest look if that’s something they want to buy into.” 

The programs vary in price, but it offers scholarships and a three-tier system so families can choose a pay level. 

“We really want to empower and inspire courage and leadership,” she said. “It’s important for us that girls find their own way of being a leader.”

The Outdoor Leadership Development’s 10-week Girls Rock after-school rock-climbing mentorship program pairs young women with adult volunteers. 

“So often...the adults girls know are parents or teachers, and it’s harder for them to have women in their lives to be a role model,” Aber said.  

Powerful Voices

After an assessment of the needs of women and girls in King County, three graduates of the University of Washington Graduate School of Social Work created Powerful Voices (www.powerfulvoices.org) in 1995. 

The goal is to “empower girls to become change agents to eliminate the root causes of disparities they were facing in the world,” said executive director Jane Hinton. 

Powerful Voices offers girls groups, employment programs, case management, an annual conference called “Girlvolution” and trainings for adults in its “Girl Justice Training” curriculum.

Powerful Voices serve girls ages 12 to 18, focusing on girls who are facing the greatest disparities in Seattle, mainly girls of color and girls from low-income households. Each year, Powerful Voices reaches 350 young women in South and Central Seattle. All programs from Powerful Voices are free. 

“Girl-specific programming addresses girls’ needs for positive girl culture, values and identity development and healthy female connection — both with peers and adults,” Hinton said.  

The goal of the program is to turn strong girls into strong women, Hinton said. This includes pride in identity, healthy relationships, smart decisions, civic engagement and school or career readiness and success.  

Rite of Passage Journeys

Most cultures have a rite of passage to mark when a young girl is leaving adolescence to move toward womanhood. To regain that passage, North Seattle-based Rite of Passage Journeys (riteofpassagejourneys.org) began 46 years ago. 

The program offers a two-week backpacking trip for girls ages 12 to 14. Inevitably, after hiking, the girls start to stink, Ayling said. On one of the trips, a girl “sniffed her armpit and said, ‘Yeah, I smell tough,’” she said — this breaks down a lot of ideas of what they should be and gives them an appreciation for their bodies. 

The girls spend 24 hours alone, to think about their “authentic” selves, their campfires dotting a bay on the Washington coast.

“It’s a huge challenge for girls of that age,” Ayling said. “It gives them a sense of inner strength.”

The one-week Becoming a Young Woman retreat includes discussion around what it means to be a woman, including breaking down gender stereotypes and media images. 

Sixty percent of the participants receive scholarships, Ayling said. 

“There’s that time in young people’s lives when they’re stepping out into adolescents that is so delicate and powerful,” Ayling said.  

Skate like a Girl

After a successful skateboarding clinic for girls in 2000 in Olympia, Wash., a grassroots movement started, forming Skate Like a Girl (skatelikeagirl.com). The program is devoted to opening the sport to young women, said Seattle chapter director Kristin Ebeling.

Skate Like a Girl offers summer camps, family programs and ladies night — to rally women together because “it’s hard out here for a girl skater,” Ebeling said. 

There is a sliding scale for financial assistance. 

Skateboarding can be very empowering for young women, Ebeling said: “Not only is it male-dominated, it’s also kind of scary. Normally, it’s hella dudes, and we’re out there shredding and taking up space.” 

For girls, skateboarding can be scary, but when they’re successful, it often pushes them to take on other challenges, Ebeling said, noting girls think, “Yeah, I skateboard — what other badass thing am I going to do today?” 

Skate Like A Girl is working on refocusing its mission to not only include girls but also people of different sizes, ethnicities and economic class. 

“We’re all about creating new skateboarders,” she said.  

Women of Wisdom

Women of Wisdom (womenofwisdom.org) is planning its 22nd conference, which takes place each February, said founder Kris Steinnes. The conference includes workshops, a healing temple, a market and a chance for women to connect. 

The opportunity to “be heard and to be witnessed” often inspires women start an organization or business, Steinnes said. 

Its goal is to raise women’s place in the world, Steinnes said: “[We’re] bringing feminine values to the forefront, to be more respected.”

It plans to start a “safe space” talking circles program at a few schools in Seattle. “It’s harder to get teens to come to our programs,” Steinnes said. “We need to go where they are.” 

It has tried programs before, in homeless shelters, safe houses for domestic violence victims, transitional homes for women coming out of jail and a group at a school in Edmonds, Wash.

Women of Wisdom wants to work with teens because it benefits them to “explore their voice and dreams, instead of the cutthroat, competitive nature that you can get in schools,” Steinnes said. “It really empowers girls to find their voices and true passion and to respect the woman in them — a lot of us reject it.”  

You Grow Girl 

Lynn Coleman is a product of the foster care system, a case manager for Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative and a mother of an 11-year-old girl. She created You Grow Girl (www.yougrowgirl.org), a teen center for girls ages 10 to 17 in North Seattle (12000 15th Ave. N.E.). 

“I see me years ago in them,” she said. “They’re becoming pregnant at an earlier age. I want to stop that cycle.” 

The program runs on individual sponsors and some grants. Its after-school and weekend programs focus on healthy relationships, nutrition, education, fitness and preparing for the future. 

“I want to provide forum for girls to tackle fears and anything associated with disadvantaged girls,” Coleman said. “I want them to know they can become anything regardless of their background and know that there are people out there that have gone through what they have.”

North Seattle has a stigma that there is money, but there are underserved, disadvantaged populations here, Coleman said. 

“I want the girls to identify positive relationships and surround [themselves] with strong and positive leaders,” she said. “I want them to envision their success beyond middle and high school,” she said. “I want them to focus on college and a career.”  

To comment on this story, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.