SPRINGFIELD – A partnership initiative here designed to help women, particularly women of color, remain in the area and improve their economic prospects, will kick off Oct. 18, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the UMass Center in Tower Square.
The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts’ Young Women’s Initiative, which was announced in December and is being funded in part by a $150,000 grant from the MassMutual Foundation, is part of a national effort to help identify and address economic and other barriers that prevent women from reaching their potential.
Ellen Moorhouse, WFWM officer for grantmaking and community engagement, said the event will be hosted by Christine Monska, WFWM’s new officer for leadership programs who will discuss the initiative’s work, and will celebrate the first young women selected to serve on its Young Women’s Advisory Council.
“These young women will work, in collaboration with the City of Springfield, and local human services, business, philanthropy, state government, education, and community based organizations, to identify barriers to their own success,” said Moorhouse, adding the members “will learn the leadership skills required to navigate social change – removing these barriers not only for themselves – but for all Springfield youth.”
The council, which consists of 20 Springfield area women, ages 12 through 24, selected through a competitive nomination process, will be overseen by the YWI’s adult steering committee in being taught leadership and other skills in sessions that begin this month, and in exploring solutions to systemic barriers in a city, where it is said a majority of residents are people of color, more than 30 percent of them are under 20 years old and that single mothers head two out of every five families.
“The young women of the YWAC will be with us through the 2017-2018 school year, engaging with various leadership and policy topics from a wide array of subject matter experts,” Moorhouse said.
She said one area of learning – financial literacy – “will be taught in collaboration with State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg’s office through its Women’s Economic Empowerment Series, that is being adapted for our age range of 12 to 24.”
“All summer we have been developing curriculum, collaborating with community partners, and establishing the adult steering committee that will work in partnership/mentorship with the young women,” Moorhouse said.
She added, “Throughout this summer we hosted a series of listening sessions, engaging with and hearing directly from young women.”
“Over 100 young women participated at over eight different locations,” said Moorhouse, naming such locations as the YWCA of Western Massachusetts, Boys & Girls Club Family Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Life Center.
“We heard about many issues facing young women in the city including – but not limited to – safety, health and wellness, education and job opportunities, financial literacy, transportation, and more. Through a rigorous leadership curriculum, we hope the members of our YWAC will tackle pressing community issues.”
The kick-off event is free to the public. Refreshments will be served and adult attendees are encouraged to bring a young person.
Opening remarks will be delivered by Justin Hurst, a lawyer and founding member of the YWI steering committee and at- large councilor on the Springfield City Council.
Monska, the new leadership program director, holds a degree in government and international relations from Smith College, and a master of science degree from the New York University Center for Global Affairs, where she concentrated in international law and human rights.
She is a continuing education advisor for the Bard Microcollege in Holyoke, a liberal arts associate degree program for young women whose education was disrupted by pregnancy or other systemic barriers.