Girls Inc. of the Northern Sacramento Valley
By Sue Ralston
Girl PowerMay 2016
Story by Sue Ralston
Ten years ago, Barbara McIver’s daughter, Lila, a student at the University of California at San Diego, did a semester-long internship in Washington, D.C. and ended up working with the national organization Girls, Inc. As she learned more about its mission, she told her mother, “This is such a fantastic organization – you need to start a branch in Red Bluff.” And that’s how the seeds of Girls, Inc. of the Northern Sacramento Valley were planted.
McIver, a Tehama County supervisor from 1992-2004 who had served on the Red Bluff Elementary School District board for many years, was no stranger to researching policy. And she knew from having raised four daughters in Red Bluff that, though the area had strong Girl Scout and 4-H chapters, this was something unique. Girls Inc. designs programs to empower girls ages 6-18 and help them realize their full potential. Their goal is to help girls become “strong, smart and bold.”
McIver immediately began talking to other women she knew and enlisted some of them to help her form a board. One of the board members, Marguerite Sweeney, was an attorney in Redding. Sweeney’s sister was a founder of an organization called Girls Circle, designed to help girls become stronger and more resilient. McIver, impressed by the group’s effectiveness, took its training in Seattle and created a partnership between Girls Circle and the fledgling Girls, Inc. in Shasta and Tehama counties.
Girls Inc. Executive Director Kate O’Rorke says, “We’re the only group up here addressing the whole girl: health and wellness, education, economic literacy, and empowerment in a safe, all-girls environment.” O’Rorke herself is the beneficiary of an all-girls education: she attended Presentation High School in Los Gatos. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Arizona State University and worked in finance and real estate before taking the position. She and her husband have two girls, ages 8 and 5. “My oldest loves Girls Inc. and helping out,” says O’Rorke. “I think it’s very good for them to see their mom wanting to help other girls in the community.”
A key tenet of Girls Inc. is that a girls-only environment is crucial to help girls focus on their interests and strengths, free from comparison to or distraction by boys. They put on educational and prevention-based programs in schools and community centers, such as the Anderson Teen Center and the Redding Rancheria. At Anderson New Tech High School, an economic literacy program taught high school girls how to manage, save and invest money; how to help others through philanthropy; and how to become financially savvy adults. Stashia, an Anderson New Tech student who participated in economic literacy training, said, “It has been very informational and has taught my friends and me how to balance a checkbook, manage bank accounts, and even write a resumé, in a fun and enjoyable way.”
The programs – whether designed to help girls resist peer pressure, understand the power of media messages or to recognize risky online behavior – are research-based and delivered by trained professionals in environments designed to empower girls. But Girls Inc. is not just about training; the organization recognizes the power of relationships and role models. Girls are offered opportunities to meet and interact with positive female role models and begin to know the sense of camaraderie that comes from being part of a group of like-minded girls.
On May 15, the organization will hold its Strong Smart & Bold Brunch at Riverview Golf & Country Club. The annual event is open to the public and celebrates the organization’s achievements and honors locals who have contributed and inspired them. This year is the 10th anniversary of the local chapter. Three women and girls will receive the Strong, Smart and Bold Award. Girls who have benefited from the programs will get up and share a bit about what they’ve learned. “We’re just so proud we’ve made it to 10 years and served so many girls,” O’Rorke says. “And the organization is still growing.”
A special award is given out each year in the name of Barbara McIver, who not only got the chapter up and running in 2006, but served for the first few years as its executive director. “Establishing the award (in 2009) was a wonderful surprise and one of the greatest honors of my life because of how meaningful the board was to me,” says McIver. The McIver award is given to those who have significantly advanced the local organization.
Girls Inc. of the Northern Sacramento Valley
For tickets to the May 15 brunch:
(530) 527-7767 • www.girlsincnsv.org