F.Y.R.E. Initiative Igniters have grown confident, spoken up, and taken action to benefit their community

FYRE outcomes blog

This December, YW Boston’s F.Y.R.E. Initiative is celebrating completing its first full calendar year! Launched in the fall of 2019, the F.Y.R.E. Initiative is a leadership development series for girls in sixth through ninth grade. Despite challenges arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our F.Y.R.E. Initiative team innovated and was able to deepen their connections with Igniters (our program participants), virtually. We are thrilled to learn from the results of our first full year, and to adapt as we continue to grow. Many of our goals center on our core program components: experiential learning opportunities and social-emotional learning. We invite you to discover the successes of our first full year.

Our program facilitators center the 12-16 week curriculum on the F.Y.R.E. Initiative’s seven core values: freedom, youth power, self-love & wellness, community, empathy, growth, and political education. 

Because of the F.Y.R.E. Initiative, Igniters… 

Have grown more confident and knowledgeable 

The first few weeks of the program focus on educating Igniters on topics such as personal power, healthy relationships, and conflict resolution. They also come to better understand issues of racism and sexism and how intersectionality informs their identity. The program sessions become a space for Igniters to examine their knowledge of these topics and share their personal experiences. Through exercises with F.Y.R.E. Initiative program staff, participants build a sense of self, empowerment, and resilience through controlling their lives.

According to participants, they most love the F.Y.R.E. Initiative when it “challenged us,” “let us express our opinions,” and “helps us with our identity.” They shared that as a result of the program, they feel “more confident in [themselves],” “stronger,” and “more communicative.” As one participant explained, “I am lovable, caring and understanding when things go rough and [I] help others.”

Feel empowered to speak up and do their best 
The GROW Igniters were able to meet outdoors this summer.

The F.Y.R.E. Initiative team works to ensure that the Igniters feel confident in applying their knowledge to examine topics of identity and community in their daily lives and speak up about them. One participant stated that after participating, she hopes she “will use her voice more.” As Officer Jamila Gales of the Boston Police Department and founder of GROW (Girls Reflecting Our World) noticed, “The girls gained self-confidence, are speaking up more, and are able to actually just be youth and have fun! From day one to the end, the bond and growth was something you had to [witness.]”

In encouraging young people to work hard, it is crucial for them to feel supported and that others expect them to work hard. After participating in the program, 97% of the Igniters felt that the F.Y.R.E. Initiative staff expected them to try hard and to do their best and 93% felt encouraged to work through difficult problems. In addition, 89% of participants demonstrated gains in their social-emotional learning. “FYRE is Fire! […] igniting young girls into powerful young women,” shared Erika Butler, Coordinator of Girls Outreach & Leadership Initiatives at the Boston Center for Youth and Families.

Are more likely to take action to benefit their community 

Half-way through the sixteen-week program, the Igniters take their knowledge on topics of collective power and intersectionality and perform a community assessment. They examine the strengths of their community as well as where they would like to create change. From there, they do research into their chosen topic and determine where they have influence. The program ends with four sessions in which Igniters develop action plans, or roadmaps so that they can lead the change in their communities.

For instance, one F.Y.R.E. Initiative Igniter group this fall is working to address the quality of their food at school. As one student put it, the group found that their school and the school lunch system is “not respecting kid’s eating choices and their diets.” In response to the results of their community assessment, they are developing an action plan that includes further research on food vendors and food systems, a survey of student diets (e.g. lactose-free, vegetarian, vegan, etc.), and even implementation plans for schools to incorporate these changes to meet student needs.

After participating in the F.Y.R.E. program, the Igniters are likely to continue engaging in their communities. As compared to when they began the program, Igniters leave two times more likely to vote, two times more interested in how government works, and three times more likely to seek out information to be politically informed. Through the knowledge, skills, and actions that Igniters take throughout the program, in its first year (even with the unexpected move to virtual!) we are already seeing the Igniters act on issues important to them in order to impact their communities.

Thank you to those who helped us complete our first full year. 

We could not have seen such extraordinary outcomes during our first full year without the support of our program partners, participants, and donors. We extend a special thank you to Alexion Charitable Foundation and Citizens Bank Foundation for their partnership.

Are you F.Y.R.E.’d up?
F.Y.R.E. is developing partnerships for Spring 2021!

If you wish to participate in YW Boston’s F.Y.R.E. Initiative or want to learn more about bringing the program to your school or community, please contact TiElla Grimes, F.Y.R.E. Initiative Program Manager, at tgrimes@ywboston.org.

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About YW Boston’s F.Y.R.E. Initiative

With the F.Y.R.E. Initiative, launched in the Fall of 2019, YW Boston facilitators conduct a 12-15-week leadership development series for girls grades 6th through 9th. The series brings together social justice education, positive identity development, and civic engagement, culminating in small group civics projects. This model takes place in schools or Out of School Time programs, and it is developed to operate in a “girls group” structure rather than a traditional classroom structure. Core to the program is an effort to provide experiential learning opportunities and dialogue to build understanding and increase social-emotional learning.