Eliminating Racism
Empowering Women

Don’t start humming Village People just yet -- the YWCA isn’t affiliated with that other organization. But there’s still plenty going on to make you break into a happy dance.

The YWCA is approaching its 110th birthday in 2015. The organization has evolved over the years, but what has remained constant is its focus on adult education and job training.

“We made it our bold goal that women and girls of color in high-need communities across the national capital area would have the resources and support necessary to achieve their goals in personal, professional, and academic success,” said Chief Development and Communications Officer Shana Heilbron.

Video courtesy of YWCA-NCA

After a summer of strategic restructuring, Shana and other YWCA staff are looking forward to focusing on what they do best: offering adult education, career training and mentoring. YWCA participants take computer literacy classes, attend mock interview training, and study for their GED’s.

The EMPOwERgirlz program, for girls aged 6 to 17, is distinctive for its range of activities and its emphasis on peer-to-peer influence. Charis Goff, manager of volunteer and donor engagement, said girls in the program practice anything from hands-on science experiments to etiquette at a formal, three-course meal. Another critical message is sex trafficking prevention.

“People don’t realize it does happen in the U.S. and really very much in the D.C. area,” Charis said. “We want girls to be aware of predatory behavior.” Once the girls learn how to spot danger signs, instructors urge them to teach their friends outside EMPOwERgirlz.

In 2013, YWCA took part in a campaign against domestic violence.

Shana and Charis both emphasize the role of volunteers. “We really do rely on volunteers for the success of our programs,” said Charis.

Tutors are always in demand to bring extra, individualized attention to the adult training programs. Semester- or year-long mentors for the EMPOwERgirlz program are also welcome.

Professionals in any field may visit a job training day to give mock interview and resume feedback, tips on professional attire, and other insights to help women achieve a career goal.

YWCA staff member believe that, given training and a safe environment to practice their skills, women in disadvantaged areas can achieve professional goals they otherwise might not have pursued.

“YWCA in Action” introductory tours meet next on Dec. 9 and Jan, 13, from 12 – 1 p.m.

About the Author: Jessica Sillers is a Washington, DC-based writer. She has volunteered as a teacher's assistant in Faridabad, India, and on a farm in Ireland. Contact her at jessicasillers@dcfreelancewriter.com