Non-profit brings girls together
Empowering girls was the goal of
the second annual Girls Rock! Weekend.
The event was run by Hardy
Girls Healthy Women, a non-profit
organization based in downtown Waterville
during the weekend of April
17. The schedule of events for the
weekend included a conference held
on Mayflower Hill, an awards ceremony,
a movie screening, a local performance
by Ani DiFranco and a
Hardy Girls Healthy Women was founded about a decade ago by a trio of women: Colby College professor Lyn Mikel Brown, Karen Heck '74 and Lynn Cole. The goal of the organization is "transforming our culture into one that values girls for who they are, not how they look."
The goal of the Girls Rock! Weekend is to "celebrate all girls' creativity, leadership and activism." The weekend was created after the screening of the movie "Girls Rock!" at an annual conference held by Hardy Girls Healthy Women. This year, the weekend has expanded, giving girls even more opportunities to make their voices heard.
Events began on Friday, April 17 with the eleventh annual Girls Unlimited! Conference, held on the Hill. The theme of the conference was girls' leadership and social activism. High school students who serve on the Hardy Girls Advisory Board ran the program, which featured various workshops encouraging girls to take charge and lead the way. There were 115 girls in attendance, from all across Maine. "When girls get together they are allies and effective at making changes, taking risks, and breaking cultural stereotypes," Hardy Girls Programs Director Jackie Dupont '04 said.
On Friday evening, the first annual Girls Rock! Awards were given out at Soup to Nuts, an eclectic coffee house in downtown Waterville, which drew a large crowd to celebrate the accomplishments of girls in Maine.
All of the College's female a capella groups performed at the event. The Sirens opened, singing three songs, including "Killing Me Softly" by Roberta Flack. The Colbyettes followed with two songs of their own, the highlight being a rendition of TLC's "Waterfalls." Closing out the singing portion of the night was EVE, who entertained the crowd with four songs, including a version of Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek."
"Talk about some rockin' women," Hardy Girls director Megan Williams said once the groups had left the stage. In all, there were 24 girls from Maine nominated for the awards, which were given in six different categories.
The Health Advocacy award was given to Chelsea Schoen, a freshman at the University of Southern Maine, for her work to get school-based health centers in Maine. Vera Mauro was awarded the Against the Odds award for initiating a sign language class in her school so that language can be accessible to everyone.
The Title IX Champions were the Waterville/Oakland girls' high school hockey team. When they were told that they had to the join the boys' team, these girls worked together to raise over $11,000 to begin a team of their own. The Entrepreneurship award was given to Samantha Lee Todd, who started her own organic beauty product business called "Simply Luscious." Leila Saad was awarded the Community Organizing award for starting a Gay-Straight Alliance group at her high school.
The final award of the night was the Co-Creator award, presented by the three founders of Hardy Girls. The College's own Aleah Starr '11 was the recipient of this award for her "Projections" project.
"The award winners' passion for change and willingness to take action inspire us all," said Tobi Schneider, a member of the Board of the Directors, at the close of the evening. On Saturday night, musical icon Ani DiFranco performed at the Skowhegan Opera House as part of the weekend.
The weekend closed with a poetry mash-up at Soup to Nuts on Sunday morning. A small but intimate crowd gathered to share poetry, including poems by Maya Angelou, Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare. The majority of the work, however, was original poetry. Themes ranged from chocolate to the emphasis that our culture puts on physical appearance.
The co-creators of Hardy Girls was impressed by the amount of courage the girls showed by sharing their work. "I would never have gotten up and shared poems when I was this young," one commented. The second annual Girls Rock! Weekend was a great success for the Hardy Girls, Healthy Women organization. It emphasized what Williams says is the best part of her job: "Seeing girls use their voices in a way that I never could when I was their age.