Education / 2013

Professional women Step Up to help underserved teen girls graduate

Professional women Step Up to help underserved teen girls graduate

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Step Up Women's Network

The goal of Step Up’s Teen Empowerment Programs is for girls to graduate high-school confident, college-bound and career-ready. Our partner schools focus on the IQ: the reading, writing and arithmetic. We focus on the EQ: the emotional and social skills they need to be successful and break the cycle of poverty. Built into our after-school and Saturday programming are elements that address barriers to success such as a lack of parental involvement and support at home, the disconnect between the relevance of schoolwork to ‘the real world’, negative peer pressure, lack of positive role models and lack of confidence. By taking a more holistic approach to the needs of our teen girls we are succeeding in partnership with schools where schools alone are failing. Step Up’s proven programs directly impact high school completion and dropout rates, college going rates and after-school enrichment program participation. Our model is unique. Girls are introduced to many different mentors and role models, not just one. If a 9th grade girl is interested in becoming a doctor we can introduce her to one. By 10th grade she may be thinking she wants to be a writer, a psychologist or a talk show host (or all three!). Step Up has that covered. Not only are we able to introduce our girls to the women who have the careers they are interested in, we introduce them to the companies as well. They get to experience what it is like to be on the inside. Providing a tangible, attainable vision for the future is a powerful tool keeping our girls in school and motivated to go to college. The professional women in our network are there all four years of high-school as classroom volunteers, hosts for field trips to their offices, providing internships and as mentors. Our group mentoring model enables busy professional women who cannot commit to long-term mentoring relationships to leverage their personal and professional resources on behalf of the girls in our community in an accessible way. This keeps the women, and their companies, engaged. 9th and 10th Grade Confidence Building Program 9th and 10th grade classes are taught after school, one-day per week. This curriculum offers 30 weeks of after-school programming per grade and is designed to offer girls a solid foundation in life skills that will build their confidence. Created by internationally renowned confidence expert, Jess Weiner, the curriculum is jam packed with confidence boosting activities that also ground the students in career and college prep. Rooted in a multi disciplinary approach of team work, creative self-expression, group exercises, and open dialogue - students use their real life experiences to explore issues of identity, action, vision, voice, and expression. The 9th grade class focuses on Identity, Relationships and Voice. The 10th grade class focuses on Vision, Action and Expression. 11th Grade Career and College Exploration: Pathways to Professions Pathways to Professions is Step Up’s program aimed at jumpstarting high school girls’ career-exploration by providing invaluable first-hand exposure to a variety of industries and strong professional female role models. Step Up takes girls on field trips to companies and collaborates with each host to create dynamic, meaningful activities for students such as tours, role-playing and panel discussions. The program aims to instill greater professional confidence in Step Up teens. We leverage the reach of our professional women members to secure field trips to companies in a variety of industries from tech to publishing to banking to entertainment. After the field trips, the girls are led through critical thinking exercises about what they’ve experienced with the help of our member-mentors. Students attend at least five field trips throughout the year and meet one Saturday per month. Saturday workshops cover multiple college preparation topics utilizing our professional women mentors. 12th Grade College and Career Preparation: Young Luminaries This program is aimed at supporting Step Up seniors as they apply to and make their transition to college. Utilizing a group mentoring model, mentees and mentors attend a workshop one Saturday per month. In the fall semester the program focuses on support through the college application process. In the spring semester the program focuses on preparing students for summer internships at Step Up member companies. Topics include resume writing, cover letters, professional etiquette, dressing for success, mock interviews and more. All students meeting Step Up’s internship criteria are matched with a company for a six week paid summer internship. These internships help girls from socio-economically disadvantaged communities level the playing field by building their resume and exposing them to powerful networks of professionals that can provide recommendations to college and references for job opportunities.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Step Up is proud that since beginning Teen Empowerment Programs in 2006 we have worked with nearly 700 underserved teen girls. For the past three years, 100% of Step Up seniors graduated from high school and were accepted to a college of their choice.

In addition, after participating in Step Up: • 80% of students felt comfortable speaking in public, as compared to 60% before • 75% felt they had gained strong college and career role models • 80% felt they understood the college admissions process, as compared to 60% before • 85% felt informed about career options, as compared to 65% before • 90% felt they understood and felt comfortable networking professionally, as compared to 50% before

Here are some stories of our girls that help bring these successes to life.

Kayla, Class of 2013: “Step Up has shaped who I am today. I’ve learned to speak my mind and become an independent woman and a leader. After graduation, I plan to go on to college and continue my journey, to try out all of the great things that the world has to offer me. I would definitely encourage other girls to join Step Up. Step Up is a family you build, and it will only make you stronger.”

Yosselin, Kenyan College Class of 2015: At 10 years old, Yosselin left El Salvador to join her mother in Los Angeles and a troublesome period of her life began. She was skipping a lot of school and got involved with a gang. She turned a corner her freshman year of high school when she joined Step Up. Through Step Up, she was able to imagine a better life for herself for the first time. “My best moment with Step Up has been interviewing Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica, and having been able to visit her office and see her in action, running her company. This is when I realized that school was very important and I had to get serious. In 9th grade, Step Up not only became my escape, it became my new family. It has been the influence of so many strong successful women that have kept me working hard. It has been the Step Up college tours, internships, and my Step Up mentors that have helped me envision the future I know now I am capable of achieving. Through Step Up, I discovered my passion for writing and my potential to thrive in college.”

Ja’Nai, Gettysburg College Class of 2016 “By participating in Step Up they taught me all about the business world and what I needed to do to be successful in it. In addition, it taught me exactly what my working style is and helped guide me in my search of what career I may want to pursue in the future by providing me with several exceptional mentors who are successful businesswoman. Through this program I was also able to obtain an internship at The JAR Group. I want to be a writer when I get older so my internship really helps me exercise my skills, since I spend most of my time finding content and sampling copies to go along with it. The Step Up program has given me the opportunity to have a voice.”

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

School Partners: Gertz Ressler and Environmental Science and Technology High Schools through Alliance College Ready Academies Mendez Learning Center and West Adams High School of LAUSD. Communities in Schools helps refer students at risk of dropping out at Mendez to our program. LA’s Promise refers students to our programs at West Adams. Sample of College Partners: Mills College UC Berkeley Scripps College UC Santa Cruz San Francisco State University University of Illinois at Chicago Dominican University Boston College Harvard University New York University

Sample of Corporate Partners: Yahoo! Neutrogena GUESS? US Bank Dermalogica Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw LLC

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

In a 2011 evaluation of our programs, we interviewed educators including administrators as well as academic subject teachers at our partner schools. 100% of those interviewed said that they would recommend Step Up programs to the girls in their classes. Step Up teens exhibit qualities of inquisitiveness, independence, resilience and an ability to express themselves that make them stand out. Educators shared with us that they have confidence that these girls will go on to college and be successful.

With pro bono support from Deloitte consulting and input from Step Up staff, our alumnae and school partners we developed 11 key outcomes (and indicators of behaviors which demonstrate progress toward those outcomes) that represent the confident, college-bound and career-ready young women we want our Step Up teens to become. Our curriculum (outlined above) is specifically designed to achieve these outcomes.

Step Up measures programmatic success through various tools including number of students in the program, attendance, retention, the results of pre and post surveys administered to teen girls, and soliciting feedback from members and teen girls. During the first three weeks of the program, Step Up administers pre-surveys to students. The students take the same post survey at the end of the school year. The aim of these surveys is to measure the 11 key outcomes including the impact the program has had on the student and a change in overall habits.

Program Objectives: Percentage of seniors graduating high school 90% Percentage of seniors accepted to college 90% Pre and Post-Programming Survey Results: Percentage of girls reporting they feel more confident in themselves as a student 75% Percentage of girls reporting an increased comfort level in taking on tough school assignments 75% Percentage of girls reporting an increased ability to complete school assignments well and on time 75% Percentage of girls reporting an increased ability to solve problems with limited guidance 75% Percentage of girls reporting an increased comfort level when making a presentation in class 75% Percentage of girls reporting an increase in comfort level when interacting with and adults 75% Percentage of girls reporting an increase in ability to be a strong teammate on group projects 75% Percentage of girls reporting an increased comfort in building trusting relationships with adults 75% Percentage of girls reporting an increased comfort level in speaking in class 75% Percentage of girls reporting an increase in feeling positive about themselves 75% Percentage of girls reporting an increased ability to accept constructive feedback 75% Percentage of girls reporting that Step Up made them aware of new career possibilities 75% Percentage of girls reporting feeling more prepared to choose the college that’s right for them 75%

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

By year-end 2013 Step Up will serve at least 230 female students in grades nine through 12 in low-income and underserved neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles who attend four of our partner Title 1 schools. Ninety percent of these students are eligible for the federal lunch program, meaning that the students and their families live at or below the federal poverty level, which is how Step Up defines low-income.

The ethnic makeup of our students is 2% African-American, 7% Asian, 84% Latina, 4% multi-racial and 2% Did Not Report.

In addition: • Over 85% of their primary home languages are not English. • Less than 50% of Step Up girls’ parents or guardians have a high school diploma. • 98% of Step Up teens do not have a parent who attended college.

We are open to all girls at our partner schools. There is no GPA requirement. Often our girls are those at the middle to bottom of the pack who lack a cohesive social group. But they have an inner drive that gets them in the door. Once in Step Up we’re able to ignite their potential.
The impact of low-income, minority youth graduating high school and attending college is documented well by statistics. But what is not always captured is the ripple effect on the community. Many of our girls have younger siblings. They are acutely aware that their success models a new way of life for their family. They know that they are trailblazing in their communities and that other kids are watching. You can’t be what you can’t see. Our professional women serve as role models for our girls. The girls then serve as role models for their peer group and help set higher expectations for the next generation.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

In 37 years another generation of young people will grow up here in Los Angeles. Their communities will offer a stronger base of support, a high-quality education system, stronger local economy and an engaged community that operates in a spirit of collaboration rather than competition. Our public education system will be a source of pride that prepares kids to not only be ready to work and contribute to the economy, but will take a holistic view of youth as people with unlimited potential.

Step Up envisions that the teen girls served by Step Up’s network of professional women today will be serving as the mentors and role models for that next generation of Step Up teens. A Step Up teen in 2050 will have a large national network of women and companies ready to open their doors for a mentorship experience, internship, a job. Step Up women will be the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Senators (or perhaps President of the United States), and influencers in all industries that believe in the power of community partnerships and investments in education and workforce development. Step Up will be an attitude, not just an organization.