The prevalence of risky behaviors can have a negative impact on a young person’s ability to grow and develop into a healthy, productive adult. Research shows that when young people achieve academic success, have significant relationships with caring adults, and are involved in community service and extracurricular activities they are empowered and less likely to engage in risky behaviors. YWCA Wheeling’s Youth Empowerment Program provides a positive impact on young people’s ability to improve their leadership and communication skills, self-expectation and resilience. We focus on empowerment by teaching the practices of emotional intelligence, assertive self-expression and healthy relationships, giving girls the skills and confidence to live as leaders.
The main topics that the Youth Empowerment Program focuses on are:
· Communication skills
· Leadership skills
· Positive character building
· Critical thinking and conflict resolution
· Assertiveness and refusal skills
· Healthy decision making and risk taking
· Community service and engagement
· Civic Responsibility
· Team Building
· Life skills (goal setting, money management, interviewing, resumes)
· STEAM programming (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)
The YWCA Wheeling’s Youth Empowerment Program, established in 2016, has seen many successful events that have reached young women throughout the Ohio Valley.
The Youth Advisory Board consists of 15 high school girls, from various schools, that focus on hands-on leadership training throughout the year. They hold monthly board meetings, (following Robert’s Rules of Order), plan and hold at least two fundraisers per year, they participate in public speaking events, hold team building exercises, and participate in various local events and fundraisers. The Youth Advisory Board’s major accomplishments include attending the United Nations Leadership Summit and lobbying on Capitol Hill for girls’ education rights with senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, competing (and winning) for Show of Hands community award, planning and holding fundraiser to raise $1,500 for teen homelessness and teens aging out of foster care.
The Leadership Challenge is a yearly retreat style immersion in the program focus areas that is open to 50 high school students throughout the Ohio Valley. Youth spend four days working on communication and leadership skills, STEM activities, healthy life choices, goal setting and using teambuilding to explore the issues that effect youth in our area. The students pick different issues to plan and create PSAs and visual aids that address those issues, while planning community awareness events and fundraisers. During the December 2017 Leadership Challenge, students from seven different schools addressed teen homelessness, self-harm, peer pressure and diversity.
The Youth Empowerment Program also offers STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities to educate and encourage young girls and women to explore STEAM fields and careers with hands-on activities. The program has offered Girls Who Code to girls in 3rd grade to high school and held a Google Coding Party to teach computer coding skills and to learn about successful women in the computer field. The program has partnered with Color Pop Cosmetics/SPATZ Labs to teach hands-on chemistry skills while making cosmetic products.