In Walpole, an alarming number of middle school girls were at risk of depression, body-carving, suicide and eating disorders. In their middle and high schools, there were no female guidance counselors. In order to increase these girls’ self-worth and value, ease their pain, despair and helplessness, and empower them to reach their own unique potentials, the Community Counseling Center in Walpole designed the Girls Center as a proactive response in 1997. It serves girls ages 8-14 in the town of Walpole.
The Center is led by an Executive Committee of 12 seventh and eighth grade girls, serving over 210 girls with the help of 65 volunteers. The Community Counseling Center renovated a space to house the Center. The girls have their own television program, called Girl TV and their own magazine, The News and Art Magazine. The Museum of I is designed for the girls to express themselves through music, poetry, journal writing, art and video. To orient the girls toward their own career goals, The Girls Center sets up hands on experience for the girls in local businesses. In addition, the Center hosted their second Summer Camp this year for girls in grades five through eight. High school girls, who participated in the Girls Center, serve as peer educators, providing education to the lower grades and as high school sisters for the middle school girls in Walpole. They are trained to talk to the younger girls about serious problems.
Because of The Girls Center, many more girls are involved in constructive activities. As a whole, their confidence is increasing and they are blossoming. They are developing leadership skills and good relationships with others, becoming empowered personally and intellectually. The girls are making better choices and gaining stronger values. The Center also helps the parents of these girls. Once a month at the Walpole Public Library, the parents discuss books, films and videos concerning their girls’ development and parenting. These sessions teach the parents how to support their daughters by becoming better parents.
The Girls Center is supported by a $236,000 grant from The Paul and Phyllis Fireman Foundation. It covers the cost of programming staff salaries and administrative costs. Money from fundraisers also contributes to funding the Center.