, a national nonprofit group founded in 1864, garnered a fifth place ranking as a high impact, youth-serving nonprofit by Philanthropedia, a GuideStar research organization.
“I feel great about it because it gives us recognition and stature as a relative newcomer to Westchester,” said Sally Baker, Executive Director of Girls Inc. Westchester. “It helps to raise our profile as a [respectable], strong national organization.”
This is the first year the Philanthropedia ranking had been produced. A survey of 88 experts, including funders, researchers, nonprofit senior staff and government officials, along with a review of 178 national nonprofits, contributed to the ranking. Nine groups were chosen as outstanding. Of the top nine nonprofits, Girls Inc. was the only organization dealing with the education and welfare of women and girls.
“Commitment to research in programming,” “passion for leadership” and “positive development of girls,” were reasons cited by Philanthropedia for Girls Inc.'s high ranking. On Sept. 19, the ranking was announced by Girls Inc. and Philanthropedia on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Girls Inc. Westchester has been running since fall 2007, with programming in White Plains since 2008. Baker hopes that the high ranking will make Girls Inc. more known around the county.
The Westchester branch provides programs for young women around the county, and in White Plains through the . Programs are run afterschool in the district's middle schools and high school. This year, Girls Inc. finished its second year of weekly groups held at White Plains High School.
In this program, which lasts 20 weeks of the year, Girls Inc. staff members meet with young women after school to address all kinds of topics that are important and relevant in the girls’ lives: they touch on financial literacy; careers and life planning; leadership and community action. Health, wellness and sexuality are also discussed.
About 10 girls a year participate in the afterschool series, facilitated through the White Plains Youth Bureau’s Future Excel program. Baker feels that the program does spark a change in these young women’s outlook on life.
“[We find an] increase in self-confidence, an ability to speak their minds and realize what they say is important, a change in motivation and looking to the future,” she said.
Through these sessions, the girls are able to have their future goals validated by a strong sense of social support.
“Girls who had not thought about college—either because their family members didn’t go to college or they’re not pushed to go—they now see [going to college] as a given,” Baker said. “This changes their sense of selves and [what they believe is] possible in the future.”
The Philanthropedia ranking is not the only accomplishment that Girls Inc. has achieved this year.
"In August, Girls Inc. was honored as a White House Champion of Change for our work in substance abuse prevention," said President and CEO of Girls Inc. Judy Vredenburgh. "A Girls Inc. representative and girl visited the White House to participate in an expert roundtable."
Girls Inc. also attended the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting as a member organization.
“For three days, we participated in conversations on empowering girls and discussed our commitment, an expansion of one of our STEM programs,” Vredenburgh said.
Girls Inc. Westchester program staff accompanied the White Plains girls to the Girls Inc. National Celebration Luncheon in New York City last spring, where they heard Girls Inc. National Scholars—who were also juniors and seniors in high school—share with the audience their plans for college and their career aspirations.
Workshops held in White Plains also include opportunities for the girls’ mothers to participate.
“In White Plains we have run mother daughter workshops: “Growing Together” – communication building around issues of puberty – and “Money Talks,” a financial planning workshop,” Baker said.
Vredenburgh expressed the nationwide goal of a 30 percent increase in Girls Inc. membership by 2015. To date, Girls Inc. Westchester has served about 150 girls in the White Plains area.
“We provide enrichment opportunities to open their eyes to the possibility of [their futures],” Baker said.