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The young philanthropists of CCFWG’s Girls Advisory Board gear up for a new funding cycle

October 14, 2019 Category: FeaturedMediumPurpose
Who run the world? Girls.

On Saturday, October 12, some 20 teens gathered in a home in Malvern to begin the process of deciding which organizations in Chester County they will be funding this year.

The Girls Advisory Board (GAB) — an initiative of the Chester County Fund for Women and Girls (CCFWG) — takes the participants through the full process of philanthropic grantmaking, from inviting requests for proposals to budget reviews, site visits to final grant decisions.

The 16th class of GAB — whose first meeting was September 7 — has already decided its funding priorities: access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and education; human trafficking; and mental health, and so are moving onto the process of identifying which organizations they will invite to apply for funding.

At Saturday’s gathering, Kim Cowley, a CCFWG intern who is studying social work at West Chester University, asked the girls to introduce themselves, note their preferred pronouns, and speak briefly about the high- and low-points of the past week. The teens then heard from four panelists who had been invited to speak about civic engagement. I was invited, as Generocity’s editor, to be part of the panel, along with:

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  • Tess Benser, the assistant director of outreach and engagement at West Chester University’s Center for Women & Gender Equity
  • Robin Stuntebeck, a business consultant and West Goshen Township supervisor
  • Celeste Trusty, the Pennsylvania state policy director for FAMM (a national nonprofit, nonpartisan sentencing and criminal justice reform organization)

L to r: Tess Benser, Javonna Wylie and Karen Doyle.

The moderator of the panel was Emma Crowell,  a senior at Henderson High School, and GAB alumna, who is currently working with State Senator Katie Muth and her policy team on writing legislation that protects women’s reproductive rights.

Discussion included how township constituents can get involved on a local level and advocate for their concerns; why intersectionality is important to understand and consider when it comes to advocating for women and girls; how storytelling brings about positive change and ignites action; as how individuals can support criminal justice reform, as well as the teens’ key concern:  the ways young people can be engaged and make their voices heard if they’re not old enough to vote.

Javonna Wylie points to needs in the county.

The real work of the gathering started after the presentation was over.

The girls were led through a recap of discussions from previous sessions — in which they had examined the significant poverty and challenges that are easy to overlook in this wealthy county — by GAB Coordinator Javonna Wylie. Wylie is a West Chester native who works as the SOAR Reentry case manager at Chester County Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC), and became the coordinator at the same time as the new GAB class.

The OIC office Wylie works at is located in Coatesville, a majority-minority small city in Chester County that can seem far removed from the bucolic Malvern setting of the GAB gathering. But one of the strengths of GAB is that it familiarizes the teens with the distinct communities that comprise the county, and enables them to get to know and work with teens from different heritages and backgrounds.

Wylie and CCFWG’s Girls’ Programming Planning Committee Chair Karen Doyle guided the teens through the 2019 grant guidelines, as well as the process of evaluating grant proposals, in advance of sending out letters inviting organizations to apply for the grants.

The girls, who serve on the board for two years, may go on — like Cowley and Crowell — to study and work with nonprofit organizations and legislators, or to pursue other interests. But regardless of their trajectories, they will carry with them a deep and transformative experience of local philanthropy and civic engagement.

Girls. Their persuasion can build the nation.

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