An organization that seeks to empower young women is on its way to expanding their services thanks in part to a five-figure donation from a Western Massachusetts business.
Girls Inc. of the Valley, which seeks seeks to inspire girls and young women to be strong, smart and bold by through educational youth development programs, is in the midst of a $5 million fundraising campaign with three primary goals: to build a permanent home in downtown Holyoke; expand school-based programming in Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke: and extend STEM education programming.
The nonprofit received a fundraising boost Thursday when PeoplesBank presented a check for $75,000 to Girls Inc.
Tom Senecal, president and CEO of the community bank headquartered in Holyoke, presented the check during their annual Business Leaders Reception.
“PeoplesBank has been investing in the Girls Inc. of the Valley Experience for years, long before I became the Executive Director,” said Executive Director of Girls Inc. of the Valley Suzanne Parker. “They are a company that truly walks the talk when it comes to community care and involvement. The bank’s employees have volunteered for events and hosted girls on field trips, and bank leaders have lent their expertise as board and committee members. Most recently the bank has wowed us with this $75,000 commitment for Her Future, Our Future. We are so thankful for PeoplesBank’s loyal support.”
The funds will be used to serve more than 1,000 girls in Western Massachusetts each year, nearly 5% of the combined female population of the Holyoke, Chicopee and Springfield public school systems.
It will extend one of the nonprofit’s current programs, Eureka!, which exposes girls to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and support them with mentors and guidance, specialized curricula and internships.
“The barriers girls face today in the United States are real and profound,” Girls Inc. said in a statement. “The need for qualified science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals in our workforce continues to grow and women – particularly women of color – continue to be underrepresented in these fields.”
According to an evaluation from American Institutes for Research, girls involved in the program are more likely to see themselves as leaders, influencing and improving their local communities.
In the study, girls did significantly better than girls who had not had the Girls Inc. experience. It found they were more likely to engage in pursuits and express beliefs that lead to physical and mental wellbeing, academic achievement, and strong character and leadership.
MassLive also recently spoke to 16-year-old Maya Senquiz who became the representative for Western Massachusetts Teen Advocacy Council of the Girls Inc., in which teen activists focus on educating around issues of sexual harassment and violence.
During the reception, Amanda Theriault, the principal of Gen. John J. Stefanik Elementary School in Chicopee, quoted one of her students that is involved in the program.
“I love how they talk about girls’ rights. It taught us what girls can do in life, like boys do. I can do anything they can do,” said Gisel M., a fourth grade student at Stefanik Elementary. “I felt confident talking and thinking about everything I could do if I put my mind to it.”
So far Girls Inc. of the Valley has raised $2.2 million and is in a “quiet phase,” but hope to have more to announce in the coming months.
“Our core values and the values of Girls Inc. are pretty similar; innovation, community support and academic excellence, we share both those visions,” said Senecal. “We’ve been longtime supporters of Girls Inc. in the past and we will be in the future. This is just an opportunity for us to solidify and support Girls Inc, which does tremendous things in the community. To do for young women to help them achieve things that they may not have ever been able to achieve.”