Mentorship: An Intergenerational Learning Process

My name is Amelia Joselow and I have been a volunteer mentor with the Girlx Only Leadership Development Program (GOLD) at YWCA Cambridge for nearly three years.

In my outside life I am a researcher and don’t spend any time with youth, so I was thrilled when I went into the YWCA Cambridge after having learned about their mission of empowering women and eliminating racism, and they told me I could help out by being a mentor with the GOLD program. Each week the girls meet and go over a variety of topics to enrich their lives and their understanding of the world, everything from financial literacy, to performance art, to healthy boundaries, to difficult race/racism conversations. I am always amazed at how excited and insightful they are, seemingly much more so than I was at their age. I find fulfillment in my volunteer work with the program as a supplement to my professional work, but really what is most impactful for me is showing up every week and trying to be a positive influence in these girls’ lives, in a way that was lacking for me when I was their age. 

When I was in middle school I was painfully shy and lonely and didn’t know what interests I had beyond what I thought would get me accepted by others. The girls in the GOLD program are so much more self-aware and aware of the society they live in in a way that is truly miraculous. GOLD gives them the space to explore who they are and want to be, as well as empowering them to believe in what they could be when they are older. For the girls it is a growth experience, and for me as well. Over the years I have found healing in seeing these girls grow confidence and grow strong bonds together and it gives me hope for the future of young women everywhere. I am incredibly grateful for the GOLD program and all the amazing work that YWCA Cambridge does. I thank them all for letting me be a part of their work.

Dear Blogger readers and YWCA Supporters,

My name is Puja and I am the Coordinator of the GOLD program. I also have the wonderful opportunity to work with GOLD mentors like Amelia. I want to give a shout out to all of our GOLD mentors for their dedication and the effort they have put into the GOLD program. Our mentors welcome everyone each week, assist with weekly sessions, and provide support to the GOLD participants. Our mentors always come to GOLD with a smile, ready to learn, and have fun, too! From making everyone laugh during dinner to being there to listen during hard times, our mentors are a central part of the GOLD program. The GOLD program would not be the same without them!  Personally, I want to thank all the mentors for their support and guidance during my transition as I joined the YWCA Cambridge staff earlier this year. Mentors,we thank you for all you give to our program.

Interested in becoming a GOLD Mentor? Email Puja at pkranz-howe@ywcacam.org to learn more!

Authors: Amelia Joselow & Puja Kranz-Howe

The Girls of GOLD

The first weekend in May, GOLD (Girls Only Leadership Development), a partnership program between Councilor E. Denise Simmons and the YWCA Cambridge, hosted a day long summit, Beyond All Limits, for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade girls in the Somerville and Cambridge area. The summit focused on leadership skills, self identity and expression, and meaningful career paths. I had the privilege of moderating the panel with local women who built their own careers and are paving the way for future women leaders in their field.

Maybe you are thinking – these girls are only in 7th, 8th, or 9th grade why do they need to think about careers now?

The women on the Beyond All Limits panel were diverse: a health and wellness entrepreneur, a software engineer, a poet-rapper-educator, and a photographer. Each of these women spoke about how they held onto their self expression and creativity, followed their passion, and practiced self awareness throughout their career journey. These are all values that GOLD holds and strives to uphold with the girls. As described by the panelists, it can be incredibly challenging to take on a nontraditional career path and especially difficult to feel empowered to begin this journey, whether it’s starting a business doing healing yoga or being one of the few women majoring in computer science.


Why invest in girls?

Empowering women and eliminating racism is the mission of YWCA Cambridge and it must start at a young age. Investing time and energy in these middle school girls is crucial for self empowerment, self expression and self esteem. GOLD aims to create a safe space for girls to talk about their self identity, practice leadership skills, and learn in an inter-generational space. Creating these kinds of spaces for girls builds up their self worth and helps them develop community support. Through the GOLD program, this support is cultivated not only with their peers but also with women in the Cambridge community. These spaces and this community of support empowers the girls to create their own career path and follow their authentic self.

Investing in girls breaks down barriers of inequality.

You can’t be what you don’t see – having women role models for these girls inspires them to engage in activities and to explore paths that they may not have thought of before. Strong women inspire strong GOLD girls.

Written by: Elizabeth Baldwin, YWCA Board Member and Chair of the Racial Justice Committee

Girls Only Leadership Development

This past May, thirteen (13) junior high school girls, their parents, mentors, YWCA Cambridge staff, and City of Cambridge officials gathered together in city hall to celebrate the conclusion of yet another successful semester of the Girls Only Leadership Development (GOLD) program.  

We spent seven (7) months exploring a variety of  topics, from self-defense to financial literacy to the making of a podcast. The young women of GOLD culminated their experiences with a graduation ceremony, broadcasting the podcast they’d created during their workshops with the American Repertory Theatre.

With their certificates of completion in hand, they were invited on stage to shake hands with  YWCA Cambridge Executive Director Eva Martin Blythe, Councilwoman Simmons, and GOLD Coordinator Amanda Okaka.  After all of the well wishes, were completed, one young woman made her way over to the microphone, took a deep breath, and exhaled a small “thank you” before running off stage; many of the girls in the program giggled to themselves, but all of them also nodded knowingly.

In speaking with the GOLD participants, it becomes apparent that the exchange during the closing ceremony was indicative of many of their experiences. Young women participating in GOLD are invited, encouraged and supported to step out of their comfort zones; whether it’s in the form of public speaking or learning about taxes, they learn to do something that challenges their vision of who they are and what they’re capable of doing or becoming.  One participant described her experience when remarking on her favorite workshop- self-defense, saying “it felt weird and new but I also felt a little more safe and experienced after.” GOLD teaches young girls not only to be OK with a healthy dose of discomfort, but to flourish in it and grow from it, turning their uncertainty into empowerment.

GOLD introduces its participants to new friends, informs them of sexism in the media, and helps them to start seeing themselves as strong independent young women, through their relationships with older mentors.  GOLD also teaches skills that will help young girls enter high school as strong, intelligent young women, ready to take on the world.

GOLD Registration is now open for volunteers and 8th grade girls! Sign up today.  

Written by: Mia Kania, Forest Foundation Intern at YWCA Cambridge 

We Are On a Mission in 2018.

When thinking about the New Year and what it means for YWCA Cambridge, we began to look at the four core programs that make us who we are. Those four programs are: Housing and Shelter Services; Health and Wellness; Empowerment and Economic Advancement of Women and Girls; and Racial and Social Justice. Each area is key to the success of our mission: to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

In order to highlight our efforts in 2018, we have created this blog to showcase issues, achievements, stories, and events surrounding our program areas.  From telling the stories of our girls leadership program (GOLD) participants to reporting on our efforts to overcome the issues of personal and institutional racism, we want to give you the ins and outs of YWCA Cambridge through monthly blog posts. Our goal with this blog is to educate, motivate and create conversations about each program area.

We want to know what issues are important to you. Tell us what you want to hear or learn more about! Email Whitney at wmooney@ywcacam.org.