In 2021, the F.Y.R.E. Initiative helped gxrls become advocates and form community
Note: Throughout this article, we use the terms “womxn” and “gxrl” as terms to include anyone, including transgender, non-binary, genderfluid, polygender, and gender non-conforming people, whose key gender identity, experience, and internal perception on the spectrum of gender is woman or girl.
Since 2019, YW Boston’s F.Y.R.E. (Fierce Youth Reigniting Excellence) Initiative has empowered middle school gxrls, building their personal flames to becoming leaders in their own communities and Greater Boston. In 2021, the F.Y.R.E Initiative has continued this important developmental work with its 16-session curriculum incorporating social justice education, positive identity development, and civic engagement.
Throughout the year, as our Igniters (F.Y.R.E. Initiative program participants) completed the program, we received feedback that F.Y.R.E. Initiative has not only helped gxrls build their confidence and become advocates, but also has helped them build important friendships. Check out how we supported Igniters’ growth this year.
Developing advocacy knowledge and skills
In a previous blog post from January, our F.Y.R.E. Initiative team mentioned how, “learning about advocacy helps young gxrls recognize the power they hold within their community and develop the skills they need to make change.” This is especially important for gxrls and young womxn of color, whose perspective on their ability to make change can be significantly impacted due to intersectional identities and the systems of oppression they face, including racism and sexism.
By working with our F.Y.R.E. Initiative facilitators, Igniters become advocates by building their self-confidence and understanding their own value. They develop their own understanding of advocacy and ways to partake in it and make change, such as through political advocacy. Specifically, within our Spring 2021 cohort, we found that after participating in F.Y.R.E. Initiative, twice as many Igniters reported having the skills to be politically informed.
With Igniters being more informed, they are then able to reflect and engage with political issues that they care about within the city of Boston. During a group activity from a Summer 2021 F.Y.R.E. Initiative cohort, one Igniter had this to say in reflection about the root cause of gun violence in Boston:
Our data has also shown us that gxrls partaking in F.Y.R.E. became more interested in taking action through the political process of voting. After participating, 89% of Spring 2021 Igniters reported understanding different opinions and that they were likely to vote.
Through the F.Y.R.E. Initiative, gxrls develop the ability to enact change in their greater community, but they also develop community within their cohorts. Earlier in the year, we stressed the importance of gxrls finding social relationships during the pandemic, and that the necessary isolation due to COVID-19 could be difficult for our Igniters. Through our virtual sessions, we’ve been able to observe from comments that building new friendships has been valuable to Igniter’s lives, so much so that they even expressed a desire to build community beyond the F.Y.R.E. sessions. One Spring 2021 Igniter left this comment for their cohort during a session:
Celebrating the success of our Igniters
In June, our F.Y.R.E. Initiative held its first-ever F.Y.R.E. Symposium titled “Igniting Your F.Y.R.E. Within: Sharing our experiences with COVID-19.” Here, attendees were able to hear from a variety of intergenerational speakers supporting gxrls’ and young women’s empowerment. These speakers included: Beth Chandler, President and CEO of YW Boston, Shaitia Spruell, Commissioner of Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, Representative Liz Miranda, State Representative of the 5th Suffolk District, and Keynote Speaker Portia Blunt, Vice President of Apparel at Reebok. Guests were also able to experience a youth panel entitled “Navigating COVID-19 and the impact on the social and emotional wellness of Black and Brown Gxrls,” and connect over intergenerational table talks.
Perhaps most importantly, we were able to celebrate the success and hard work of our individual Igniters who completed the F.Y.R.E. Initiative program in 2020 and 2021. We are extremely grateful to have collaborated with such incredible gxrls, supporting their self-empowerment, building community, and providing tools to enact change in Greater Boston. We are excited to continue this work in 2022 and the years ahead.
Interested in learning more about our F.Y.R.E Initiative? Check out the video below and hear about the program from TiElla Grimes, M.Ed., Senior Program Manager of F.Y.R.E., as well as Igniters themselves about their experience within the program! Reach out to TiElla Grimes at email@example.com to learn more about bringing the F.Y.R.E. Initiative to your school or community.
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.