In October, my Global G.L.O.W. colleague Gabby and I had the opportunity to visit our U.S. partners at Springboard to Opportunities and meet with Partnership Coordinator Sarah Stripp.
The last time I was in Mississippi I was 8 years old – that year, my mom got a job that moved us from Southern Miss to Long Beach State. Our visit in Jackson proved more exciting than Hattiesburg, but people were just as friendly and endearing as I remembered.
Let me also start by saying that in my work, I spend most of my time speaking to folks virtually. While I look forward to my calls, Skypes, and Google Hangouts with our partners, meeting them in person is something I look forward to for weeks. And for this trip, Sarah worked hard to make sure we saw all of the local club sites, in addition to all the planning and training we do on site visits. Sarah is the best, basically.
During the first leg of the trip, Gabby and I got to meet many of Springboard to Opportunities’ wonderful mentors. Hearing their passion, how much they care about the girls, and getting to know them was a great way to kick off our trip. Sarah and Parthenia were wonderful hosts, and I loved hearing more about what Jackson is like and even more about Springboard (they are doing great things y’all, check them out!).
And of course, a big highlight was getting to meet the girls! We asked them about how they see themselves before and after going through our programming, and one of my favorite answers was that a participant was “a boss before” and “a boss after”, but that maybe she was a little more open. Every girl comes into the program with a different set of strengths- and each takes what she needs from the space, whether that’s self-assuredness, a positive future outlook, or even openness (in this case at least). This is the part that makes me a *little* jealous of our mentors- getting to build those relationships is such a privilege. The girls are not only inciteful, hilarious, and whip-smart, but they are also very passionate about pizza. If you’re wondering, Shubha, their program recommendation is more pizza.
In Baltimore we had the honor of celebrating with the group from Windsor Valley for their Harvest Festival. Beginning in 2018, they developed a Community Action Plan where they created a community garden, and their harvest looked like some of the freshest food I’d ever seen (it doesn’t hurt it was literally picked only hours earlier). The girls set up the whole event, passed out and then assisted the younger children in cutting their fresh tomatoes for salsa. It was great to witness their leadership and joy around this project. It’s hard not to be impressed, they run a tight ship and their vegetables were delicious. It’s much more than I can say about my plants at home- most of them are lucky to be alive.
Now listen, you may be thinking, this is a little long right, Olivia? And yes, maybe you are right. But if you made it this far, hopefully you felt some of the excitement I did during this trip. I could go on about Sarah and the rest of the Springboard team’s hospitality and how great these young people are, but you didn’t sign up to read a tome.
Finally, for those of you reading from Mississippi and Maryland, thank you for everything! Our partners and our club goers make me feel lucky to do this work.
Olivia is the U.S. Program Coordinator for Global G.L.O.W. and works to maintain relationships with our partners locally in California and across the United States, as well as developing programming and planning events. Olivia received her bachelor’s degree from UCSB in French with a minor in Sociocultural Linguistics and her master’s from SDSU in Women’s Studies. After taking her first feminist studies course at UCSB, Olivia discovered her passion for advocating for women and girls and values the opportunity she has to give girls the support they need to come into their power.
Springboard to Opportunities is a nonprofit organization that connects families living in affordable housing with resources and programs that help them advance themselves in school, work and life. They work with families in Jackson, Mississippi and Baltimore, Maryland.