By Serena Zets – 10th Grade, Pittsburgh CAPA
GirlGov graduate Miciah Foster said, “I have 50 sisters. The morning before last they were all gathered in a hotel room listening as I spoke about the injustice of black women. When I finished, every one of my sisters clapped in agreement, outrage, support, and awe. It’s always like this when we get together.”
To most teenagers, this feeling of a community is foreign, but to GirlGov participants this feeling is familiar. GirlGov, a program from The Women and Girls Foundation, provide regional girls with an opportunity to learn about civics, government, and leadership firsthand. Every year the participants embark on a trip to Harrisburg for four days to meet with state legislators, participate in workshops, and meet like-minded girls. The trip is free of cost to ensure that participants are of all backgrounds.
Sarah Deutsch, a 2015-2016 participant and senior at South Fayette High School, said, “I like that it’s an organization that allows people, who would have never met otherwise, to share their perspectives and make an impact.”
This year, a 100 girl cohort attended the Harrisburg trip from June 14-17. In just those few days, the young women made important contacts, not to mention lifelong friendships. The program’s aim is to give young women the space and tools to level the playing field in the professional and political realm.
A lot of girls didn’t know what to expect when they signed up, mainly because the organization is one of a kind. Maddie Daily, a junior at Ellis, said, “Initially I signed up because I thought it would be good for college applications, but I found it to be so much more than that. I liked making deep connections with the other girls, especially because we had different girls.” When you sign up for GirlGov, you’re not signing up for a once a year event; instead you’re entering a sisterhood.
The Harrisburg program has been so successful that it is expanding into a year long program, much to the girls’ excitement. 2015 participant and junior at Peters Township High School, Stephanie Wang, said, “What I really love about GirlGov is that it isn’t just a one time thing, but that we have meetings throughout the year. Not only will these meetings allow us to accomplish more in our communities, but they’ll help us form deeper bonds with our peers.”
Her peers agree. Sydney Bennett, a senior at Geibel Catholic High School said, “I’m looking forward to seeing how we work together and seeing how much we can actually get done together, being young women.”
Girls who participate GirlGov have made a real difference in their own communities. Past cohorts have planned bake sales that highlighted the wage gap, launched a boycott of Abercrombie and Fitch that gained national attention, and perhaps most impressive of all, drafted a bill that was passed into state law. This year’s cohort has goals ranging from advocating equal pay for equal work to striving for better sex education in their schools, and much more.
Sarah wants to contribute for the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. She said, “It’s extremely exciting to see recent developments, specifically marriage equality… But I don’t want people to think the fight is over due to this one tremendous success.” Another participant, Haley Casperson, wants to advocate for funding for Planned Parenthood. Kelly Howard wants to pass on her GirlGov education to other women.
Over the next year, GirlGov will provide a platform for these extraordinary young women to make the changes they see as necessary. Although the program only runs for a year before the new class begins, the participants agree that in those four days they learned enough to last a lifetime.
For more information about GirlGov, check out “GirlGov: Will Work for Equality” by Stephanie Wang.
Serena Zets is a sophomore at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School. At CAPA, her discipline is literary arts where she received the opportunity to take part in an introductory journalism course. She is a resident of Squirrel Hill where she bakes, reads, and most importantly sleeps.