The moon was big and bright and so were the smiles as Smart-Girl celebrated ten years of serving girls at its fall event, Under the Harvest Moon, on September 25 in the gardens at the Governor’s Mansion. In its ten years, Smart-Girl, the Denver nonprofit organization dedicated to giving middle school age girls the skills they need to make smart choices and become confident, capable, self-reliant young women, has served 3,000 girls, trained more then 700 high school and college-aged women as Guides, and partnered with 25 different organizations including schools, camps and clubs. The successful event raised approximately $24,500 for Smart-Girl and will help bring its impactful program to even more girls.
During the evening, Smart-Girl honored its inaugural Partner of the Year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver (BGCMD). BGCMD offers Smart-Girl in all nine of its locations. Vice President of Programming, Tina Martinez, graciously accepted the award. Party guests also heard from Jocelynn Lewis, a 17 year old Smart-Girl Guide and senior at Montbello High School. Jocelynn noted in her remarks that serving as a near-peer role model for the younger girls helped her realize how important it was to make smart choices for herself. Jocelynn was surprised and happy to learn that she would be earning a scholarship for five college credits for her work with Smart-Girl.
Karen Silverman, Smart-Girl Executive Director, and Edric Starbird, Smart-Girl Board Chair, also spoke. Silverman alluded to the evening’s theme by noting the female astronauts and scientists depicted in the décor. She stated that there aren’t enough positive female role models for girls today and girls are still fighting a bias in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Starbird talked about the important tools his daughter gained from Smart-Girl and how they gave her the scaffolding to make her entry into middle school a success.
Other event highlights included live music during the cocktail hour by Denver Young Artists Orchestra duet Sempre Strings, and after the program by jazz/swing band Pawn Ticket Trio. Denver Astronomical Society members, with their telescopes available, gave party guests up-close views of the moon, Jupiter and other star systems. A live auction featured a powerful telescope for the winner to take home to view the skies from their own backyard.
The event was made possible by sponsors Jim and Kim Bolt, the Diecidue Family Foundation, Brown & Tedstrom Wealth Management, Knippenberg, Patterson & Associates, Westword, Colorado View, Downslope Distilling, Steele Street Bank & Trust, The Seff Group, Wagner Wealth Management, Phi-nomenal, Advanced Orthodontic Care, Applejack, Simple Sugar, Sam Adams and Reale’s Liquor.
During the months of July and August, girls from all over Denver learned to love who they are, speak up for what they believe, intervene when they witness a wrong, discern and avoid negative peer pressure, and be a good friend and leader. Smart-Girl camp gave girls these skills and more in a summer program that was creative, fun, interactive and even, at times, silly.
“Our summer camp provides girls with this intense opportunity to really reflect on their lives outside of school and independent of their usual peer group,” said Sameen DeBard, program director for Smart-Girl. “Girls discover and develop skills they didn’t even know they had.”
Smart-Girl camp helps girls to develop leadership ability, group and social skills, problem solving and critical thinking skills, self-worth and more. The camp tackles topics such as peer pressure, bullying, refusal skills, communication and body image in a safe and diverse environment. Smart-Girls develop social-emotional intelligence, learn how to make healthy life choices, and have a great camp experience full of fun and friendship in the process.
“I actually use the skills I learned in Smart-Girl, and things are better between my friends and me now,” said a recent camper. “I feel more accepted at Smart-Girl than in any other part of my life.” The camp has such a positive impact on girls that many come back year after year. In fact, due to demand, the summer the program that traditionally serves girls going into 6th through 9th grades will be expanded to include 10th and 11th grade girls.
Smart-Girl is an activity-based program that empowers young adolescent girls to become confident, capable, self-reliant young women by giving them a chance to tackle the tough issues they deal with every day. The unique strength of Smart-Girl is utilizing the power of positive peer influence by pairing highly trained older teens and college-aged women with groups of middle school girls. These leaders are carefully selected and trained mentors who facilitate discussions and activities.
Smart-Girl camp, which is facilitated through Denver Jewish Day School’s Summer BLAST program, also meets on the school’s campus. DJDS is a welcoming environment that provides both indoor and outdoor space for Smart-Girls to play and create while learning about themselves.
Her family, friends and associates always knew Karen Silverman was a smart girl. Today, Karen also is the new Executive Director of Smart-Girl, a Colorado nonprofit dedicated to empowering middle school age girls with the skills and tools they need to make smart choices and become confident, capable, self-reliant young women.
With a J.D. from George Washington University and a B.A. in International Affairs from University of Colorado, Boulder, Karen was well on her way to making a difference in the world. After practicing law for a few years, Karen stepped into what would become her life’s passion – Colorado nonprofit management. She coordinated public policy for the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, tackled patient advocacy for the American Cancer Society, and directed the Colorado Association of Family and Children’s Agencies before bringing her leadership to the Colorado Jewish community.
Karen’s positive impact was felt immediately when she stepped into the role of Interim Director of the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center Early Childhood Center, and then to the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education as the Israel Study Tour Alumni Association Director.
“Karen was a terrific asset to CAJE,” said Tammy Themel, Chief Operating Officer for the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education. “She’s calm and thoughtful and determined and unrelenting – that’s a great combo for a nonprofit organization.”
A Smart Girl Goes to Smart-Girl
Karen took over the Executive Director post for Smart-Girl in October of 2009. What she saw was the chance to help girls of all means and backgrounds become their best selves.
“With Smart-Girl, I have the chance to make a difference when girls are at their most vulnerable,” said Silverman. “Middle school is when girls are most likely to lose who they are. After a childhood of believing they could conquer the world, they’re now filled with self-doubt. Their self-esteem can take a beating and they can become more susceptible to negative outside influences. Bullying, peer pressure, moodiness, body image issues and gossip all rear their ugly heads during this period. Smart-Girl empowers girls with the knowledge and skills to combat this negativity, make smart choices and embrace themselves.”
Smart-Girl is a mentoring program that draws its strength from many unique components. The development and nurturing of girls’ social-emotional intelligence is at Smart-Girl’s core. The curriculum is research-based, and “near-peer” Guides lead program sessions. The Guides – girls who are usually in high school or college – go through an extensive training program for which they can receive college credit before taking on the role of leader and positive peer role model for Smart-Girl participants.
“Middle school is a place where girls get lost and just follow others because they think that’s the right thing to do,” said a 14-year-old participant. “Smart-Girl has taught me to follow my own heart, my own mind, and that I am smart enough to make my own choices.”
The Smart-Girl program consists of 16 sessions that are thought provoking, experiential and fun. The curriculum is designed to keep girls engaged while taking on serious issues in a safe environment. The program helps girls to develop leadership and confidence, self-awareness and self-worth, critical thinking and problem solving skills, group and social skills, and attitudes and values that lead to resilience and success in life. Smart-Girl meets the national standards of the American School Counselor’s Association and can be delivered in a variety of formats depending on the providing partner’s needs. Schools, camps and community centers have all successfully delivered Smart-Girl programs.
“I wish I had had Smart-Girl when I was a kid. Girls who participate in Smart-Girl are more positive and proactive, regardless of what neighborhood they’re from or how comfortable their family is. All girls go through the same garbage at this age, and Smart-Girl helps them come though it smelling like a rose,” summed up Silverman.
Today’s 12 year old girls are exposed to very grown-up messages in the media. From websites to television to print, girls hear about what to wear, how to talk, what’s OK to do with a boy, and how to be popular. Often these messages are highly sexualized and adult. On November 10, 2009, Smart-Girl’s annual luncheon will feature Addie Swartz, founder of B*tween Productions and creator of Beacon Street Girls, discussing today’s too grown-up media influences and what parents can do to counteract their suggestions and suggestiveness. Swartz’s talk, Is 12 the New 18, will give parents information about what their girls are tuning into and the ammo to combat it. The Smart-Girl luncheon is on November 10, 2009, at the Cherry Hills Country Club from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Swartz established the Massachusetts-based B*tween Productions in 2002 to create and promote healthy media alternatives for pre-adolescent girls and, with her team of writers and child development experts, has since published 22 Beacon Street Girls (BSG) books, launched a safe social networking BSG website and introduced a line of BSG merchandise. Swartz launched B*ween after an epiphany-inducing experience at a shopping mall with her then 9-year-old daughter and several of her daughter’s friends. They stopped for a moment in front of an Abercrombie & Fitch store which featured a giant photo of a woman naked from the waist up. “One of my daughter’s friends asked me, ‘Why do they have to do that?’ The girls were all uncomfortable,” said Swartz. “The wheels in my head started turning. I realized that preteen girls — girls between toys and boys — deserve a world they can enjoy that is devoid of overtly sexual messages. Beacon Street Girls provides a healthy and hip media alternative.”
“Girls today are exposed to a lot of sexualized imagery and messaging that can be intimidating and confusing for them,” continued Swartz. “I’m so happy Smart-Girl invited me to talk on their behalf because they are giving girls the information and tools they need to speak out and be comfortable in their own skins.”
“The characters in Beacon Street Girls are the same age and deal with some of the same challenges as many of the girls that Smart-Girl helps,” said Karen Silverman, Smart-Girl’s Executive Director. “Beacon Street Girls is a wonderful series that addresses serious issues in an age-appropriate manner. That’s also what Smart-Girl does — contend with serious adolescent issues in a creative, interactive, thought-provoking and age-appropriate way.”
This year for Mothers’ Day, nonprofit Smart-Girl and Denver Highlands boutique, RejuvaNest, are collaborating to celebrate both Smart-Moms and Smart-Girls. RejuvaNest will host a benefit for Smart-Girl on Saturday, May 2 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the boutique. Guests can purchase How to Mother a Successful Daughter, and author and Smart-Girl CEO, Nicky Marone, will be available for chatting and book signing. All book proceeds benefit Smart-Girl. RejuvaNest will have the book available in the store through May 9. Additionally, RejuvaNest will donate 5% of boutique sales occurring between May 2 and May 9 to Smart-Girl. RejuvaNest is located at 3719 W. 32nd Ave. in Denver.
“RejuvaNest is all about women treating themselves and each other with care,” RejuvaNest owner Brenda Meyers said. “We’re very happy to support Smart-Girl’s efforts in leading young women to emotional health and self-sufficiency.”
“We’re thrilled to have this partnership with RejuvaNest,” said Marone. “Funds raised through the special Mother’s Day event will go directly towards life-changing Smart-Girl programs in our communities.”
RejuvaNest, a local and independent lifestyle boutique, is located in Denver’s Historic Highlands Square. Step in and you will be greeted by intoxicating home fragrances, lovely lingerie and comfy linens. In this 1920s cottage, you’ll discover the unique gifts for which you’ve been searching. RejuvaNest recently celebrated its second anniversary and earned Westword’s “Editors Choice for Best Shop on W. 32nd Avenue.”
Smart-Girl, a Colorado nonprofit organization, launches nationally with its debut at the American School Counselor’s Association (ASCA) conference June 28 to July 2 in Atlanta, Georgia. Unlike most girl-centered organizations, Smart-Girl focuses on the development and practice of social/emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills that lead to life-long happiness and well-being. Smart-Girl embarks on nationwide accessibility by offering a workshop and an exclusive publication, Making Smart Choices: Social and Emotional Skills for Adolescent Girls, to ASCA conference attendees.
“Being showcased at the ASCA conference gives our curriculum the validation we know it deserves,” said Nicky Marone, Smart-Girl CEO. “We’re honored to be in partnership with such a prestigious professional organization. By teaming up with ASCA, we’re confident the Smart-Girl program will be initiated by individuals across the country with the training to deliver it successfully. When that happens, not only will the girls in these communities benefit. The communities themselves will benefit as well.”
Smart-Girl’s ASCA workshop will be led by Dr. Rhonda Williams, EdD, and Sameen Noorulamin, Smart-Girl Program Director. The workshop will comprise lecture, experiential learning and discussion. Attendees will not only hear about what makes Smart-Girl such a unique and important program, they will also experience it by participating in a sampling of the Smart-Girl curriculum. Workshop attendees also will receive a copy of the publication, Making Smart Choices: Social and Emotional Skills for Adolescent Girls to bring back to their schools.
Making Smart Choices: Social and Emotional Skills for Adolescent Girls contains a nine session sampler of the Smart-Girl curriculum. The full curriculum offers more than 100 hours of activity-based, experiential programming. Program sessions help adolescent girls to reduce their vulnerability to destructive behaviors, develop leadership, group and social skills, learn and practice critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, increase self-awareness, self-efficacy and self-respect, and develop attitudes and values that lead to personal and professional success. Ultimately, Smart-Girl helps girls grow into confident, capable, self-reliant young women.
“Emotional Quotient (EQ) is arguably more important than Intelligence Quotient (IQ) for success in life and well-being,” said Dr. Williams. “Smart-Girl teaches girls how to make smart choices – to delay gratification, persist in the face of difficulty, problem solve, be leaders, work in a team, identify and avoid harmful situations, and deal effectively with confrontation. We give girls the tools to become positive role models. This makes them better citizens in their schools, families and neighborhoods.”
“Additionally, the Smart-Girl program is data-driven and aligns well with the ASCA national model in the three key areas: personal/social, career and academic,” continued Williams.
Smart-Girls’ plan for expansion involves developing the programming, training and quality control necessary for community organizations to establish and maintain a Smart-Girl program. “Our participation with ASCA is the first step to ensure that eventually any girl that wants or needs Smart-Girl will be able to get it,” said Marone.
Frank Gonzales, principal at Kempner Middle School in Denver, can already attest to the positive results of Smart-Girl. Thanks to Gonzales, Kempner provides Smart-Girl to every female student during the school day. “Simply, girls treat each other better in the hallways,” said Gonzales. “Smart-Girl has led to an improved school climate. Girls learn that not only do they have a responsibility to themselves, but they also have a responsibility to each other.”
Smart-Girl is a Colorado nonprofit organization. It’s multiple-session experiential program is led by highly trained near-peer Guides and gives adolescent girls the tools and practice necessary to develop and hone social/emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills.