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  • Writer's pictureNBWJI Staff

FreedomWork Profile: Gwen’s Girls

FreedomWork Profile: Gwen’s Girls

City: Pittsburgh, PA

Founded: 2002

The National Black Women’s Justice Institute devotes much time highlighting the findings, policies, and practices that leave Black girls vulnerable to school pushout and justice involvement. It is equally important, however, to celebrate the good work being done in the U.S. and abroad to increase the capacity for our girls to learn in empowered ways, grow and thrive.

We label this FreedomWork—spelled as one word to capture the synergy between these two words in the English language. Both operate as noun and verb in the context of this campaign.

FreedomWork is done in your classrooms, in your departments, in your workspaces, in your communities, in your districts, in public spaces, and in your homes to actively and tangibly change the educational outcomes of Black girls. Over the next month, the National Black Women’s Justice Institute will amplify these works in its newly launched #FreedomWork Campaign.

Gwen’s Girls in Pittsburgh, PA, a pioneer in creating safe spaces for girls and women of color, kicks off the campaign. Gwen’s Girls is an agency that offers holistic, gender-specific programs, education and experiences for Allegheny County’s women and girls. Named after its founder and trailblazer, Gwendolyn J. Elliot, Gwen’s Girls empowers girls to become self-sufficient adults, with the capacity to continuously evolve emotionally, physically and spiritually; to build strong family units; develop a strong support system, and contribute to community life.

“Gwen’s Girls is a model of how FreedomWork is shifting outcomes for our girls by creating safe spaces for them to build their skills as learners and as advocates in their own lives,” states Dr. Monique W. Morris, National Black Women’s Justice Institute co-founder, and president. “A safe environment, or lack thereof, shapes a girl’s decisions and the future she chooses.”

Gwen’s Girls’ FreedomWork practices are individualized and diverse to match the needs and interest of each girl it serves.

For example:

• The Gwen’s Girls After-School Program provides girls with psycho-educational/therapeutic groups, activities, and peer group experiences. Girls interact with peers with similar challenges and ambitions, receive help on their homework, learn life skills, discover their unique talents and have fun.

• The Gwen’s Girls’ Making Positive Life Choices (MPLC) curriculum is a unique, gender-responsive, 18-week curriculum taught at various public schools and neighborhood/community outreach programs.

• The Gwen’s Girls STEM Initiative promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics to girls through captivating experiences. Girls learn critical thinking and problem solving, and about the breadth of STEM careers and professional opportunities.

• The Gwendolyn J. Elliott Institute supports research, provides training and serves as a clearinghouse for best practices in research and programming

that empowers young girls and women.

• The Gwen’s Girls Group Home expands the comprehensive continuum of services to meet the needs of court-adjudicated pregnant and parenting girls, ages 13 to 21. The program provides individual care management, supportive services, group counseling, and individual and family counseling/therapy.

Gwen’s Girls’ founder Gwen Elliott once said, “We have to figure out what it takes to get women to believe in themselves and that they have what it takes to make it in this life.” Elliot has since passed. Her legacy, love for girls and women, and vision for their promising futures, however, continues to live on every day --- in the life of this organization, and in the life of each girl served.

Share your story with the hashtag #FreedomWork and tag the National Black Women Justice Institute on Facebook, @NBWJInstitute on Twitter or at @NBWJI on Instagram.

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