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A Peek Inside the CCFWG’s Girls Advisory Board

Friday, January 31, 2020

By Tali Levine

I just turned 16 in the spring of 2019, and I was unaware of the power of philanthropy, and the need for it in my own backyard. One morning I was drawn to an advertisement on my high school message board. The Chester County Fund for Women and Girls (CCFWG) was interviewing teenage girls for something called the Girls Advisory Board. I had never heard of this organization or this project, but I loved the idea that I might personally be able to make an actual difference in real people’s lives. Almost a year later now, my experience proved to be even more educational and fulfilling than I could ever have imagined.

A major part of grantmaking and philanthropy in a program like GAB involves learning how to work together as a group to gain consensus. CCFWG selects girls with a variety of backgrounds and personalities, and naturally that means that we may disagree, especially during the important decisions we make. Each girl has to decide which social aspects and goals are the most important for them, and then is expected to support such goals during group discussions. This component of the program promotes girls creating their own voice, and from the quietest to the loudest girl in the group, each learns to speak up for what they believe in. At the same time, we also learn when not to speak and how to best advocate so as to maintain respect within the group. This combination of advocacy with respect allows the girls to best come to a consensus as a group, and teaches the girls how best to collaborate successfully in the future – within the group and into the future. Although I have collaborated on projects in the past, nothing has taught me more about it than when this group and I made important decisions about where our grant money should be allocated.

The program also gives teenage girls a chance to meet others who have the same passion for social change and a desire to make their communities a better place overall. Through GAB I have met a variety of people with different perspectives on life, different socioeconomic statuses, and different interests that have educated me about local social issues and have inspired me to be a better advocate. The difference in community and schools also allows the girls to make new friends who they would never have met or befriended without GAB. While we are all different in many ways, we all share the same goal: to improve the lives of women and girls in our broader community.

During the grantmaking process itself, we traveled on site visits to the prospective organizations, each of which can make lasting impacts locally. The focus of the nonprofit organizations that we visited varied widely from addiction rehab housing to a sewing group for trauma victims. From those visits, we viewed so many important issues (and solutions) existing within our communities, and along the way we were able to talk to extremely passionate and inspiring women about their concerns, as well as their careers in nonprofits and social work. In one instance, I personally felt so much of the emotions and hope behind what the organization’s leader was sharing, and she was so passionate about her job and the impact of their work, that I was inspired to look into her career field and consider it for myself. These visits taught us directly in a way no pamphlet or website ever could about the great number of women doing amazing charitable work in Chester County, and I never would have known about them without the Girls Advisory Board.

Although I have highlighted how our program empowers girls and provides a variety of experiences and skill sets for the future, a large portion of GAB still is about philanthropy and grant-making. At the beginning of the program, I barely knew how to define philanthropy, let alone how best to grant money to well deserving organizations. Now, I am able to educate my friends and family about it, in a manner that comes from experience. At school, philanthropy is not a common career path discussed, but my experiences on the Girls Advisory Board has helped me to form new ideas on what I want to do in the future, and the resources to do so - and I am forever grateful.

 

Tali Levine is a 16-year old junior at Downingtown STEM Academy.  She was a member of the 16th class of the Girls Advisory Board (GAB), Chester County Fund for Women & Girls’ nationally-recognized girls’ grantmaking program that provides local high school girls entering 10th or 11th grade with an opportunity to learn firsthand about the deep and varied needs in their communities and equip themselves with the skills needed to address them.
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