Ashley Hauger is a communication specialist on the Western Digital Community Relations team. She taught the Girls For A Change apprenticeship at William Sheppard Middle School in San Jose in Spring of 2017.
For the past 10 weeks, I have been inspired by the future engineers, doctors, veterinarians and artists of the Bay Area. At week one they may have seemed like your average middle schooler, but by week 10, it was made clear – they are the remarkable Girls for a Change (GFAC).
As part of the Citizen Schools volunteer program, and in partnership with the GFAC organization, I volunteered with three students from San Jose State to teach the GFAC class at William Sheppard Middle School in San Jose.
The GFAC class spent the spring semester working through the concept of social change. At GFAC, social change is determining the root cause of a community issue and tackling the root through a project that creates change. We were challenged with the task of completing the seven steps to social change while utilizing the 21st century skill of collaboration.
In working through the seven steps to social change, we explored the difference between social change and charity, identified community resources and issues, dug deep to discover our personal assets and passions, and pinpointed a meaningful issue – bullying, as well as a significant root cause of it – low self-esteem, to create an impactful WOW project. For the WOW project, the GFAC successfully implemented a school-wide “Bullying Awareness Week”, signed off by their principal, the week of May 15th.
Throughout the semester the girls opened up, sharing personal stories of the bullying they witness at school, the obstacles they face at home, and the dreams they have for their future. A common theme in each of their dreams – helping others.
“I am powerful because I am confident and can speak for myself and others,” answered Mia Salvador, a 6th grader and aspiring doctor, in her GFAC workbook. “The world needs me because I have a lot to offer and maybe in the future save people’s lives.”
More valuable than completing a WOW project, what this class aimed to do was help inspire girls to have a voice, the confidence and problem-solving capacity to speak up, be decision makers and create visionary change. We hoped for each girl to realize their full potential and live it, all while inspiring others to do the same.
And inspire others they did, including me. In teaching GFAC, I have gained confidence, I share more ideas in meetings, and I am more active in career development through opportunities in professional networks for women. I guess one could say, I have grown into a woman for a change.
This is my second semester teaching with Citizen Schools, and as summer approaches and our time together comes to an end, I will genuinely miss my 90 minutes each week with GFAC. I can honestly say, the time dedicated to being a Citizen Teacher (and it is a lot) does not come close to the reward. Really at the root of it, volunteering with Citizen Schools is life changing.