Girls Leadership Institute's Herman Explains Org's Objectives Before BIL Workshops Begin

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The Girls Leadership Institute will hold workshops for girls from second to fifth grades and their parents at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse on Middlesex Avenue, once a week for four weeks, starting April 22 for second- and third-graders and April 23 for third- and fourth-graders. Tuition is $200, and scholarships are available. MM discussed the organization and their objectives with Amie Herman, NJ Outreach Manager for the organization:

What is GLI?

Girls Leadership Institute teaches girls the skills to know who they are, what they believe, and how to express it, empowering them to create change in their world. We work with girls, parents and caregivers, and educators to ensure lasting impact.

The GLI organization made the decision to expand programming to NJ in 2012 and I joined the organization as the Outreach Manager for GLI in NJ in early 2012 to help raise awareness of what we do and bring programming to communities across the state.  I believe in the importance of what GLI does, first hand, as I have two daughters who are 11 and 15.

What is the topic that most helps in the positive growth of a young girl?  What does GLI provide that other organizations, like Girl Scouts, which also target young girls, cannot?

GLI's focus is on social emotional learning -- the importance of building authentic and healthy relationships using assertive communications skills (being able to say what you mean and ask for what you need) and understanding that there is such thing as constructive conflict in relationships and friendships, particularly between and amongst girls. GLI views these social emotional skills as critically important to becoming leaders.  We see leadership not just as something you become, but something you demonstrate each day in choices you make, especially choices around friendships and challenges you may face.

We work in concert with other girl forward organizations in communities. Often scouting troops and girls sports organizations seek us out or direct interested members to us.  We are delighted, for example to be partnering with some Junior League and Mothers and More Chapters in the area.  

What we think is unique about our workshops include parent AND daughter. We believe that parental participation, learning and role modeling is key in skill building and that girls and parents learn and share a common language that helps them explore and navigate challenges together.  

Our workshops are very interactive and use games, activities and educational theatre/role play to convey and practice ideas.  The girls have fun... and so do the parents, while gaining important insights together.  Girls often tell us that they like seeing their parents be silly and take risks in class and parents tell us that just having this kind of quality time together their busy scheduled lives is important opportunity to bond in a deeper way to their daughters.

What is your philosophy on dealing with these issues when girls are young, 2nd and 3rd grade? How did GLI decide that this is the best age to begin dealing with these issues?

We get this question a lot, actually. Why start so young? We have programming as young as Kindergarten and 1st grade.  Our philosophy is that just like we start kids young on sports teams and dance classes to practice kicking a ball into a net or doing a plie, social emotional intelligence skills can be learned and practiced!  We have found learning and practice has impact when we start young to build 'muscle memory' around authentic communication skills and continue that practice as we age.  Our workshops are developmentally appropriate to match age and social development.  We've found that families might choose to come when their daughters are in 1st grade and then come back again in 5th grade. The concepts taught are the same but how we deliver the workshops, the language we use, and the types of situations and issues girls need to work through are different. The GLI workshops allow for girls to continue practicing the skills as they reach different levels of social maturity.

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