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An Accelerating Change Awardee Profile: Gwen's Girls

  ·   By Victoria Efetevbia


On September 27th, CSSP announced three winners of the 2017 Accelerating Change Award. Each of the awardees have demonstrated a commitment to reaching and serving diverse populations of young women and girls of color who are involved or at risk of involvement in public systems.

“We are honored to receive CSSP’s 2017 Accelerating Change Award and to be recognized by an entity that is so dedicated to racial equity for girls. We are of the belief that positive impact only happens when we work together,” said Amy Yeu, a program coordinator at Gwen’s Girls. “We are proud to join hands with those accomplishing the same goal: to lift girls out of at-risk situations and into their potential.”

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gwen’s Girls was founded in 2002 by the late Police Commander Gwendolyn J. Elliott. Commander Elliott became the first Black woman to serve as a commander on the Pittsburgh Police force in 1986. During her tenure on the force, she witnessed the struggles of young women and girls involved with law enforcement. Her experience fueled her determination to ensure that all young women and girls could lead successful and fulfilling lives. Commander Elliot’s legacy of determination to help young women and girls continues to live through Gwen’s Girls’ mission of providing young women and girls with gender-specific programs, education and opportunities to foster leadership and joy.

Young women and girls of color – especially those involved in public systems – face a unique and alarming trajectory that puts them at risk of poor outcomes. Gwen’s Girls works to disrupt this trajectory through its programs which address the needs of young women and girls in a holistic and comprehensive manner using a strengths-based approach. The programs at Gwen’s Girls build on each young woman and girl’s personal strengths and provide opportunities and experiences for her to be successful.

Gwen’s Girls advocates for the holistic care of young women and girls through its community programs, strengths-based prevention services and various outreach initiatives and trainings. Fifteen years after its inception, Gwen’s Girls continues to service 300 young women and girls a year through residential care, community education, after school and summer programs, STEM, health and wellness and workforce development programming. The organization also provides opportunities for young women and girls to participate in community advocacy and activism within Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Through Gwen’s Girls various programs and services, many of the organization’s participants achieve academic success, lack of re-involvement in the justice system, and reduced incidences of unplanned pregnancies.

Continuing in the footsteps of its founder and her experience on the Pittsburgh Police force, Gwen’s Girls recognizes the importance of addressing how public systems respond to the needs of young women and girls. In 2016, Gwen’s Girls’ inaugural Equity Summit was a catalyst for the creation of the Black Girls Equity Alliance, a grassroots movement comprised of over 50 organizations and community members, which intends to help affect lasting change for Black girls in public systems.

In addition to national recognition and an honorarium, Gwen’s Girls will join other Accelerating Change Award recipients to be part of a network of similar initiatives to share ideas and help accelerate positive change and promising futures for women and girls of color nationally.

To learn more about Gwen’s Girls, please go to www.gwensgirls.org

Check out the other Accelerating Change awardee profiles here:

Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center

PathWays PA

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Victoria Efetevbia is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

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