After 22 years, YWCA Duluth closes its Girl Power! program

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After 22 years, Duluth’s YWCA is closing its Girl Power! program. The YWCA Duluth’s Girl Power! program has been an after school, at lunch, and summer day camp “dedicated to cultivating future leaders,” but on Sunday past participants and organizers said goodbye.

“It was really based on funding and staffing,” Executive Director Beth Burt said. “So a lot of issues that people are seeing right now. Then the other issue was that because of COVID, we have been out of the school.” Burt says the organization would work with the school to help run the program.

The Girl Power! program served more than 3,000 girls over the past 22 years.

According to the YWCA Duluth’s website, the Girl Power! program would use the nationally accredited Girls Inc. leadership curriculum, STEM activities and experiments, race and gender justice activities and economic and media literacy education to help engage participants.

Burt said COVID-19 played a big role in the decision to close its doors, by really reducing the number of girls. “We cannot continue to run the program with the numbers that we have now,” Burt added.

She says the program has made a big impact on the girls and their families. “They have been able to find confidence in themselves and discover their own talents and skills that maybe they did not know they had. We have provided a platform for them to express those, plan their own activities, and be involved in leadership opportunities in the community,” expressed Burt.

At Sunday’s farewell celebration, WDIO spoke with Alex Lewis, a longtime member, on how the program has impacted her life.

“Meeting, like, such good role models growing up, has definitely helped me find myself and figure out who I am really,” Lewis said.

Lewis said being a role model to younger people is something she will cherish from the program.

“Definitely like being a role model to younger people is really cool. Like these girls, they look up to me, which I think is amazing,” she said. “Have someone to talk to if they are like feeling down or has something going on. So I think that is cool.”

Although it is sad to see a program like this close its doors, Burt says there are some ideas in the works at the YMCA that would have similar core values as Girl Power! had.