When Girls Inc.’s Natalie Peterson talks about some of the girls she teaches empowerment skills to, she carefully describes them as “kind of a rough group of girls.”
They curse. Many are experienced with drugs and drinking. As sophomores, they risk failing to graduate.
Last year when Peterson, Executive Co-Director for Girls Inc. of the Northern Sacramento Valley, met a group of about 12 Red Bluff High School girls, they made it clear: “They did not want me to be there,” she said.
And yet they have come to love their time with Peterson – so much so that they insisted she return for a second semester, she said. Their bond is strong enough that Peterson now voluntarily offers them Girls Inc.’s “Project Bold,” a course that teaches girls self-defense and advocates against personal and gender-related violence.
“The school didn’t have the money to do the program this time, so I am volunteering my time, because I think the girls need it,” Peterson said of the program.
That passion for local girls’ success is what fuels Girls Incorporated of the Northern Sacramento Valley, and is why it’s dedicated to growing in the Shasta County area, Board of Directors President Jacki Roach said.
Last month, the non-profit organization created a new co-director position exclusively for Shasta County, hiring Tiffany Cahoon of Cottonwood.
Cahoon is also chairing a committee planning Girls Inc. NSV’s new and most ambitious fundraiser yet, the Boas & Bowties Gala, set for April 13 in Redding.
Since forming in 2006, Girls Inc. NSV has empowered girls ages 6 to 18 in both Tehama and Shasta counties. It serves girls of all backgrounds; whether they are thriving young women or those considered “at-risk.”
Last fall alone, Girls Inc. NSV served about 150 local girls through 11 different programs of the national Girls Inc. organization, which encourages girls to be “strong, smart and bold.”
Through the Boas & Bowties fundraiser, Girls Inc. NSV aims to serve even more young women. The Gala is designed to spread the word about Girls Inc.’s research- and relationship-based programs while also raising money to pay for the next year’s classes, workshops and facilitators. The gala fundraiser will help Girls Inc. match site costs for schools, essentially cutting that expense in half, Roach said.
“Schools are so strapped for money right now, and one of our biggest road blocks to getting programs into schools is the cost to them,” she said.
Those programs include “Friendly PEERsuasion” to empower girls 11 to 14 to steer each other away from tobacco, household chemicals and other drugs (planned this year for Cow Creek School students); “Operation SMART,” which gets girls’ hands into science, technology, engineering and math activities; “Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy,” offering girls age-appropriate skills for taking charge of their sexual health; and more.
Girls Inc.’s local administrators work with individual schools’ teachers, principals and counselors to determine which Girls Inc. programs would best serve their students. Then girls gather together, often centered around a craft or activity led by a trained Girls Inc. facilitator, to learn and discuss in a confidential setting. Many programs, like “Economic Literacy,” last 8 to 12 weeks and serve up to 15 girls. Others, like a leadership workshop held last year at Shasta Lake School, inspired and empowered girls in just a day.
This year, with the funding raised from the Boas & Bowties Gala, Girls Inc. NSV aims to provide summer programming as well, Peterson said. The focus will be on fostering girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math.
Cahoon will work to expand Girls Inc.’s influence in Shasta County while Co-Director Natalie Peterson, previously the region’s sole director, keeps her focus on Tehama County. The added job makes Girls Inc. NSV one of just two Girls Inc. affiliates in the nation to have a co-directorship. The change gives greater focus to the needs of girls in Shasta County, better manages the organization’s wide-ranging geography, and will more effectively spread the word about how Girls Inc. is enriching and empowering Shasta County girls, Cahoon said.
“Our territory is so large that it was too encompassing for one individual to be able to reach everyone,” she said. “It’s a better use of our resources to bring on an additional member so that we can reach as many schools and girls as possible.”
Cahoon is a 1st-grade teacher at Evergreen Elementary School in Cottonwood and a former Girls Inc. board member. She is proud to continue serving Shasta County girls through Girls Inc., which she said mirrors her dedication to serving children and establishing lasting, meaningful relationships.
“I’ve dedicated my life to educating our youth and instilling in them a love for learning,” Cahoon said. “It is my goal to provide every child with the foundational skills to become successful members of society.”
Kimberly Ross – A journalist and stay-at-home mom to two daughters, Kimberly volunteers for Girls Inc. so she can be “strong, smart and bold” enough to keep up with her own tough little darlings. She graduated from Chico State, reported for 10 years with the Record Searchlight and proudly served as A News Cafe’s managing editor for a year and a half. Kimberly and husband Bruce live in Redding with their girls and a small flock of motley chickens.<