Girls Paving the Way Initiative

The Fund for Women and Girls is a newly created endowment meant to boost the economic growth of the county by supporting the needs of local women and girls.

A grant of $450,000 has been made to the U.C. Santa Cruz Educational Partnership Center to spearhead the fund's first project, the Girls Paving the Way Initiative, a collaboration involving the Pajaro Valley Unified School District and six other local community partners.

In developing the fund and the initiative, ideas and direction came from and advisory group of local education, nonprofit, government and other foundation and philanthropic leaders, including parents and classroom teachers.

Focusing on middle school aged girls was determined to be an important stage in a young girl's life and an opportune place to start. The project seeks to improve the chances for success in school and life for 35 girls at Lakeview Middle School in Watsonville, who get 6 hours a week of extracurricular activities throughout grades 6-8.

Now having completed two of the three years of the pilot, an independent evaluation team is seeing the benefits of the program. The girls have made greater progress toward meeting state standards in Math and English Language Arts than their classmates. Unexplained absences, suspensions and tardiness have been reduced. And perhaps most importantly, through their Individual Success Plans (ISP) each girl is learning how to chart her own success and develop future goals.

The long-term goal is to see these girls graduate from high school, ready for college or technical training on their road to future success. All this is happening because of people who act on the belief that an investment in a girl is an investment in our community.

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