Girls Inc L.I.F.T. (Leadership Institute For Teens) girls celebrate their heritage, investigate rights and responsibilities, practice leadership skills, and tackle issues of concern. Girls deepen their understanding of girls and women as social change agents and of leadership as a collective process grounded in belonging to and having responsibility for one’s community. The first phase of the program focuses on strengthening girls’ skills and their knowledge of and appreciation for female leadership in the context of community. During the school year teen girls participate in a Girls Inc identity program thereby preparing for summer employment as peer leaders at one of the Girls Inc location.
In the second phase, teen girls go through an interview process and based on the points that they were awarded for participation during the school year, they may qualify for summer employment. LIFT participants may qualify and apply for summer employment in their sophomore, junior and/or senior year of high school. The LIFT participates work as peer leaders, being afforded the opportunity to make application of the program they were taught during the school year. The summer employment is not only an incentive for girls to participate during the school year, but it also help girls continue to build their leadership skills.
Girls Inc. knows that the teen years are a pivotal time in a young women’s life. Middle school is when young people begin to develop autonomy, and when many begin to disengage from school. Girls are also “pulled out” of school to become caregivers, help earn income, for safety reasons such as bullying or harassment, and for family reasons including a move or a divorce. Research concludes that dropout prevention strategies could become more effective by targeting the middle school grades, when the stresses of schooling – related to a more complex curriculum, a less personal environment, and the growing need for peer acceptance – pose a very real threat to already disadvantaged students.
In addition, ages 12-14 are critical years for primary prevention of numerous risk behaviors. For example, a study of young adolescents living in low income families in high risk neighborhoods suggests that girls from unstable family situations and girls of color are especially likely to become sexually active in their early teen years (by age 15). And, 46% of girls in ninth grade have smoked cigarettes, and 9% first did so before age 13.
Out-of-school programming is widely acknowledged as a key factor in mitigating risky behavior by youth. Girls Inc. programming has characteristics that engage girls this age: opportunities to interact with peers and to try new things in an environment that offers routine and structure. In addition, fostering a sense of community, developmentally appropriate programming, and family involvement are also important in engagement of middle-school girls.
For more information about the LIFT program call Brittney Harris at 757-465-3896