Learning from each other on the way up: F.Y.R.E. Initiative celebrates the first F.Y.R.E. Symposium, “Igniting Your F.Y.R.E. Within”

June 2020 blogs

On Saturday, June 5th, YW Boston’s youth program the F.Y.R.E. Initiative hosted its first-ever F.Y.R.E. Symposium, titled “Igniting Your F.Y.R.E. Within: Sharing our experiences with COVID-19.” During our F.Y.R.E. Initiative leadership and empowerment program, middle school girls around Greater Boston explore social justice education, positive identity development, healthy relationships, and civic engagement. Together at the F.Y.R.E. Symposium, we celebrated our Igniters’ (F.Y.R.E. program participants) growth as a part of the F.Y.R.E. Initiative. Igniters were joined by an intergenerational group of supporters dedicated to amplifying the voices of girls as change-makers in Boston. Congratulations to each of our Igniters!

The four-hour event was made special by all of the voices it welcomed into the space. Thank you to each of our Symposium speakers, including:

  • Beth Chandler, President and CEO, YW Boston
  • Commissioner Shaitia Spruell, Commissioner, Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women
  • Representative Liz Miranda, State Representative of the 5th Suffolk District
  • Keynote Speaker Portia Blunt, Vice President of Apparel, Reebok

After hearing from each of these individual speakers, we welcomed a Young Women’s Panel to discuss mental health and access to wellness for young girls of color. Thank you to our panelists, Akeda Hunter, Jheneire Loreus, Igniter Kaelyn Mcinnis, and Sydney Stewart. Following the Young Women’s Panel, we entered Table Talk discussions, taking place in breakout sessions, to take part in intergenerational discussions about topics such as Healthy Relationships, Conflict Resolution, and Financial Empowerment. We also thank each of the volunteers who led our Table Talk discussions. We wrapped up our Symposium with a celebration of each of the Igniters who completed the F.Y.R.E. Initiative program in 2020 or 2021. We look forward to continuing to hold the F.Y.R.E. Symposium annually.

View a recording of the Symposium, below.

Time-stamps for specific parts of the program recording:
  • 0:05 – Welcome remarks from TiElla Grimes, YW Boston Senior Program Manager, F.Y.R.E. Initiative
  • 10:10 – Remarks from Beth Chandler, YW Boston President and CEO
  • 15:12 – Remarks from Shaitia Spruell, Commissioner, Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women
  • 23:10 – Remarks from Representative Liz Miranda, State Representative of the 5th Suffolk District
  • 38:45 – Keynote Address from Portia Blunt, Vice President of Apparel at Reebok
  • 1:01:30 – Young Women’s Panel
  • 1:51:45 – Celebration and presentation of Certificates of Completion and closing remarks from TiElla Grimes
  • (Our intergenerational table talks, which took place in breakout sessions, were not recorded.)

Here’s a glimpse at what we learned during the Symposium…

Intergenerational spaces are crucial to ensure everyone keeps learning.

As Commissioner Shaitia Spruell shared, while she is now in an official leadership role, everyone at the Symposium had the opportunity to learn from one another. This helps as all grow as leaders and changemakers in our community.

You don’t have to see a leader like you to become a leader yourself.

Representative Liz Miranda spoke about how few role models she had, specifically fellow women of color leaders, when she entered college and later in politics. She inspired Symposium attendees to step into their own power and become the leaders they wish to see in their community. Her words spoke to the empowerment aspect of the F.Y.R.E. Initiative curriculum, which ignites a spark within participants to identify and problem solve around issues that impact their lives.

Understanding yourself is more important than having all of the answers.

Keynote Speaker Portia Blunt spoke about her history and how intent she was at a young age to have a plan for her life. She shared that she wished she had known at the time that she didn’t have to know all of the answer, but that instead it is crucial to become comfortable being yourself. She told Igniters, “Give yourself space, prioritize yourself,” in order to maintain your energy for what matters and what you care to work toward.

The F.Y.R.E. Initiative is supporting Boston-area girls to make change in their communities.

Caiana Luse, YW Boston’s F.Y.R.E Initiative Program Coordinator, spoke with Igniters about what they enjoyed about the program and what they hope for the future. Check out their video to hear directly from Igniters:

Thank you to our sponsor, Pegasystems.

F.Y.R.E. is offered at no charge to students and is funded almost entirely through philanthropic support. You can help us reach even more girls in the Boston area! Please consider making a donation or reaching out to learn how to bring the F.Y.R.E. Initiative to your school or community.

Thank you, everyone, who contributed to the success of our first-ever F.Y.R.E. Symposium! We hope you will join us for next year.


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.