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Girls Inc. program seeks to educate, motivate Grand Rapids youth

In partnership with the YWCA, the local nonprofit educates girls to prevent future violence.
Girls Inc. program provides fun opportunities for youth.

Girls Inc. program provides fun opportunities for youth. /Courtesy of Girls Inc.

About the YWCA

The YWCA West Central Michigan has been a place of hope, healing, and renewal since 1900. Their services work to address the issues of violence against women and children. They offer comprehensive services, participation in community-based solutions and ongoing education.

The YWCA´s services are integrated to address the whole of a person´s experience. Whether hoping to enroll in Girls Inc. or a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse, the entire range of their services are available to any who need them.

YWCA 24 Hour Crisis Lines

616.451.2744   Domestic Violence 
616.776.7273   Sexual Assault

Kristen Moss, director of the Grand Rapids chapter of Girls Inc.

Kristen Moss, director of the Grand Rapids chapter of Girls Inc. /Kendra Vanderlip

/Courtesy of Girls Inc.

The YWCA West Central Michigan is partnering with the national Girls Inc. preventative program program aimed at girls ages 6-18. The Girls Inc. mission is to inspire all girls to be “strong, smart and bold” and to prevent future situations of sexual violence.

The local program has been running since 2001. The Grand Rapids program is currently the only Girls Inc. program in the state. This charter works specifically with the greater Grand Rapids area. The program is offered in private and public schools and organizations, as well as offering after school programs and summer camps. The program is free, but space is limited.

There are nine programs that fall under the Girls Inc. curriculum. Of those nine, the Grand Rapids branch teaches the following six:  Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy, Project BOLD, Media Literacy, Friendly PEERsuasion, Sporting Chance, and Leadership and Community Action.          

All programs under the Girls Inc. curriculum include discussions about self-defense and violence prevention, dating violence prevention, preventing adolescent pregnancy, resisting peer pressure to use drugs and leadership development. The program also responds to the changing needs of girls and their communities through national, research based programs that empower girls to reach their full potential and to understand, value and assert their rights.

As part of the program, the girls often volunteer in their communities as well. Some of the organizations that Girls Inc. works with regularly are Mel Trotter Ministries and In The Image.

Kristen Moss has been the director of the local Girls Inc. program for over five years. Always passionate about mission work, she found out about the position with the nonprofit by a moment of sheer luck and coincidence, and felt as though this job was made for her.

“I had some experiences that could be helpful to other girls who might walk in my footsteps. I had something to offer,” Moss says.

This summer, the Girls Inc. program partnered with Project Cool to run a leadership camp for girls ages 14-18. Several students who completed the Project Cool camp were then brought on as paid interns for other summer camps this summer to put those leadership skills to practice. Moss hopes to be able to expand this program so more girls can get these kinds of opportunities.

With only a few staff members to support the program, Moss wishes they could do more. The program frequently gets calls from locations such as Lansing, which often the nonprofit has to turn down because of time and funding constraints.

“There is a lot of competition for prevention funding,” Moss says. She says that if there was more funding available some of the things the program would look at is expanding their space and adding more of the Girls Inc. curriculum to their program.

Girls Inc. has a wish list online where people can purchase specific objects, such as a ticket for the museum for group field trips or supplies for the camps. There are also opportunities to volunteer or donate.

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