By Alessia Grunberger
After spending time with a girls empowerment group in Ecuador and learning about the country’s educational opportunities, Reby Silverman knew she wanted to start her own student group when she returned to Maryland.
Last year, the senior global women’s health major applied for a contest through Intel for Change, a program dedicated to promoting and supporting girls’ education on a global scale. Silverman was accepted to be a student ambassador in Ecuador this past summer.
Silverman also said that Intel for Change sent three people to volunteer in different countries. One person traveled to Kenya, India or Ecuador to learn about girls’ education and the obstacles that these girls face – as well as how the communities are working to overcome those challenges.
“Girls’ education has been proven time and time again to be a huge factor in global development,” Silverman said.
As a student ambassador, Silverman is responsible for sharing her experiences with her community, and forming something in it that relates to Intel for Change’s mission.
When Silverman visited a girls’ empowerment club in a community called San Miguel, she was moved by the idea behind the club and the girls involved.
“The idea behind this club was to teach motivation and confidence, and instill those characteristics in these girls, who are generally very shy and not necessarily comfortable with themselves,” Silverman said.
In addition to promoting self-esteem building, the club encourages engagement in alternative income projects, These projects teach girls skills that they can use to make money in order for them pay for school.
“It’s incredible because you have 12-year-old girls paying for their own education through this club,” Silverman added. “They really seem to understand the value of education, and that’s super inspiring.”
After her trip to Ecuador and engaging with members of this girls empowerment group, Silverman decided to create her own club similar to the one in San Miguel. Her club, Power Up, is catered to fourth, fifth and sixth grade girls in Langley Park McCormick Elementary School.
At Power Up, there are six female University of Maryland students who serve as mentors and lead self-esteem and confidence building workshops for these 15 students. Each week during the 11-week program, a different theme is promoted – such as identity exploration.
Silverman creates all of the lessons and activities at Power Up and she – as well as the mentors – teaches the importance of each theme through fun and interactive activities.
“We usually begin our day with a 25 to 30-minute homework session where two or three girls are paired with one mentor,” Alanna DeLeon, a mentor and freshman at Maryland, said. “After this we have a discussion activity, which introduces our topic for the day.”
In one of the sessions called “What Makes You, YOU?” DeLeon described a project that had the girls cut pictures out of magazines. After, the girls disclosed what they learned from the activities in the closing discussion.
DeLeon stresses the importance of promoting girls’ education – even in a country as developed as ours.
“It is important to have programs such as Power Up because I know how easy it is for girls to lose confidence in themselves as they age in a society where men are still, in many settings, the dominant gender,” DeLeon said. “I believe that teaching girls to be confident and independent at a young age will go a long way in the future as they will continue to develop into strong, capable women and will hopefully empower the future generation of girls in the same way.”