How inspiring and heart warming was that? What am I talking about? The Team Webgrrls outreach program of course. Webgrrls NYC kicked off the first of a series of events that are set to inspire the next generation of women to get excited about and involved in the Internet and Technology. Working with Mercy Center, a community center for underprivileged girls in the South Bronx (www.mercycenterbronx.com), this month the theme was "Sending your Holiday Smile".
There were so many girls who wanted to participate that we had to break the group into two groups and they still had to share computers. We worked with girls in grades 4 through 8 first and then girls in grades 9 through 12.
The most fulfilling comments came from the girls themselves in a thank you card that many of them signed and mailed to us. Here are some of their comments:
"Thank you for coming to Mercy Center. I had fun making the greeting cards."
"Thank you for coming and spending time with us."
"Thanks for all fun activities that you gave us and all your attention."
"Thanks for the fun you brought."
"Thank you for coming to do this with us. It was very fun."
Our activities began as Pat Kuharic, a professional photographer in the Webgrrls community, started snapping pictures...At first, the girls were shy but Pat, with her great energy, soon had the girls posing and making funny faces for the camera. Several best friends jumped in and posed together so they could send greeting cards that showed them as a group. Pat even squeezed all of us into a big group shot. Then the girls copied their photos from the shared drive on to their local drive, and learned how to rotate them so they were right side up.
Then it was time for the girls to select which holiday card borders they wanted to use. Our designer guru, Natalie Kim, another Webgrrl, had created fun card borders to choose from that included festive scenes like pink stenciled snowmen, multi-colored reindeer, and blue and white snowflakes. Our other volunteers-Amelie Walker, Deborah Drucker, Kori Burkholder, Lynne Bailey, and Nelly Yusupova-helped the girls insert their photo into the borders.
The girls quickly got the hang of how to drop the photos in, resize the images to fit, and then print the cards. Each girl in that group created at least three different types of cards. Many of these young girls had never made anything on a computer before, and they seemed so pleased at how professional their cards looked.
The 9 through 12 graders had a smaller group and they really turned up the energy. Even one girl's mother decided to join in the fun. These girls loved to have their picture taken and struck many poses to ensure that they could create the perfect card. The mother/daughter pair had some great moments. As the girls in the older crowd were savvier, they jazzed up their cards by adding personal messages to their cards, and some of them even decorated their own holiday borders. Each girl (and mom) was able to make enough cards to pass out to friends and family for the holidays. We volunteers also jumped at the opportunity to make our own cards. Those of you who went to the Webgrrls Holiday Party might have noticed a shot of the steering committee members goofing off..
I wanted to pass along a few more comments we received after the event conveying just how excited everyone at Mercy Center was. Rachel Soltis, one of the staff , wrote in an email: "I've spent today listening to story after story about how much FUN Saturday was! And 'are they coming back?' is the number one question I've heard todayâ¦. We are very grateful for all you've given them. Know that you are always welcome here and that the girls would love for you to return! " Mary Galcove, one of the coordinators, wrote: "Many thanks for sharing your skill, talent & generous hearts with our girls and community."
The day was a lot of fun for both the girls and us. One of our volunteers, Deborah, sent an email afterward saying: "It made me feel so good to do even a little to give back and the girls were great." And of course it was also great to have the time to bond with our fellow Webgrrls!
I want to extend a very warm and sincere thanks to the Webgrrls volunteers who pioneered this first event:
INFO ABOUT THE NEXT OUTREACH EVENT
For any of you who are interested in being a part of Team Webgrrls, we will be hosting several events at Mercy Center starting in the beginning of 2007. The first one will be held in February (the tentative date is Feb 24) and the theme will be "Careers in Technology". We want to expose the girls to a wide variety of jobs involving Internet and Technology so they can realize their potential. If you do or have done anything that utilizes technology, we'd love to hear about it!
The jobs represented at the career fair don't need to be highly technical. For example, at WebGrrls networking events, I've met a fashion designer and a woman who makes hand-made custom-scented bath products. We want to show the girls how people in all sorts of roles leverage technology to further their business and career goals. Maybe you use software that creates virtual rooms for interior decorating or write daily blogs to disseminate the recipes you bake every day. And if you're a good ol' fashioned Web designer or programmer, we want to hear from you too! Each career representative will give about a 10-minute presentation to the girls about how they use technology in their job.
If you're interested, please email me (Kristin at [email protected] ) your name, job title, a brief description of your role, and how you leverage technology.
I know you all would be an inspiration and a role model for these girls and you can show them that careers in technology are not out of their reach!
I look forward to working with many of you in the future!