Caitlyn Copfer, Girls Inc. Program Manager at YWCA of Syracuse & Onondaga County

educator of the month
Photo provided by Caitlyn Copfer

1. Can you explain what Girls Inc. is?

Girls Inc. offers support to girls ages 5-18. Our mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. We use research-based curriculum to support that with lessons under each of those pillars. Strong signifies having a healthy mind and body, so we teach coping skills and healthy nutrition, and introduce them to sports. Smart is in relation to education, so we emphasize academic work. We expose the girls to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) activities and introduce them to traditional, as well as non-traditional roles. Bold is related to independence, so we teach life skills, like financial literacy.
We also offer “post-secondary readiness,” where we teach career readiness through career exploration events and college prep. We do things like visit colleges and practice filling out college applications.

2. What type of programs does Girls Inc. offer?

We offer different programs throughout the year. Our center-based programs run through the academic year from October-June. Our after school programs run Monday-Friday until 5:30 p.m. We provide them with a hot meal and socio-emotional learning.

We also have outreach programs. At Fowler High School, we have lunchtime programming, which is when we pull kids out to do small groups with them. We do small lessons or one-on-one support. At Seymour Language Academy, we have an after-school program Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

We offer career exploration events. Each fall, we host Expanding Your Horizons, where we do four workshops with four people from different careers – for example an event planner and a biomedical and chemical engineer. In the spring, we do a similar event, with eight workshops at the ESF campus for grades 5-10, but it is STEAM based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics).

We have various camps. Our winter break camp is in February, and it runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The same thing for our spring break. Our summer break is from July to August for ages 9-12. We also have a teen summer program.

3. What program are you most proud of?

From this past year I was most proud of our summer camps. We have 45 kids here every day, Monday through Friday. It takes a lot of communication and making sure we’re doing self-care for the staff, while making sure we’re giving everything we can to the kids. I was proud of how we accomplished our camp and everything we did and how happy the girls were.

4. Any future programs or plans for Girls Inc.?

We have piloted a leadership program for teens that we are hoping to expand. It focuses on getting them more engaged. It’s hard to get teenagers engaged in an after-school program; they have so much going on. So, we started developing this leadership program to help them build skills to be successful in that area and try to engage them after school, where they are going somewhere safe to build relationships with adults and have a foundation for everything they want to do. From the spring to the fall, we have seen an increase in their participation and engagement, and we’re hoping to see that expand in the upcoming years.

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