Action for a Better Community has kicked off Project YOU, a program designed to address the unique needs of teenage girls in the greater Rochester area, officials from the organization stated. ABC announced the new program during an event at the Rochester City Hall Atrium, June 11.
“Girls are now the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice system,” said Christopher Bell, ABC’s youth services director. “Project YOU is designed to reverse this trend by helping girls feel proud of who they are, make safe and healthy choices, build healthy relationships, and succeed in school, and in life.”
Bell said the program has been designed to promote self-esteem, positive self-image, identities, and self-management of girls, ages 12 to 18, in the local community.
As a result, he said, each year, the program will accept 20 new girls who reside in Monroe County, but who may hail from any ethnic background. And, the program will seek to enlist girls who have the highest risk of being victimized, or perpetuating violence, and who currently live at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
“The program allows for gender to intentionally guide our services,” Bell stated.
The summer component of ABC’s program will begin July 6, and run through Aug. 13.
Then, Bell said, participants will continue the program after school, beginning in October, and meet three times per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
The program will also use peer leaders, recruited by ABC, in an effort to further mentor its participants.
“We want the girls, at the end of the program, to feel confident about themselves,” peer mentor and Edison Tech High School Student Sakoi Bowman stated. “We want more girls to be involved in the community, and to have connections with multiple resources in the community.”
In addition, youth leader Natane Switzer added, “Girls in our community struggle with loving themselves, and embracing who they are.”
According to Bell, as each participant completes the program, they will eventually move on, and become peer leaders for the project.
“Girls can come through our year-long program, graduate; then come back as peer leaders,” he stated.
ABC also said it plans to strengthen the girls’ employment readiness and leadership skills, through group meetings and workshops, as well as community engagement efforts.
So far, most of the program’s participants have been referred through city schools. And, although the program has yet to begin, Bell said the organization already has a waiting list.
However, as Project YOU continues to receive additional funding, he said the organization hopes to be able to accommodate more program participants in the future.
“Then, we may be able to bring in 25 more participants,” he stated.
Project YOU has currently applied for a $10,000 grant from the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley, and ABC is still accepting donations for the program.
Interested individuals may contact program coordinator Victoria Best at 585-709-4618, or visit www.abcinfo.org, for additional information regarding the program.