Empowering women….clearly a most important goal for Saint John’s Program for Real Change. It’s interesting, then, that a group of teenage girls has already embodied that goal and is helping the women at Saint John’s by forming their own volunteer circle of help.
Started this year by sophomore St. Francis students Amelia Barkett and Anna Kate Cwynar, the group that calls themselves the Teen Circle has decided to work on their own, above and beyond any school service requirements, to raise awareness and funds for the work of Saint John’s Program for Real Change.
St. Francis and other high schools in the area require students to contribute volunteer service hours for graduation requirements. The Teen Circle girls have all volunteered at Saint John’s and have already met these requirements but they are so enamored of the program that they wanted to see if they could “do more.” (It’s one of the special things about Saint John’s….once people see what wonderful things are happening here, they want to do more.)
The girls meet monthly after school at Saint John’s and make plans. Though they have no formal structure, they simply brainstorm ideas and then divide up the tasks. It’s a happy collaboration of friends with common goals and visions.
I met with Amelia and Anna Kate…..their enthusiasm and energy are contagious. Well-spoken and bright, they talk easily and excitedly about their new challenge. A variety of activities and fundraisers are ready on the docket for this fall. A local yoga studio plans to donate the proceeds from a class, Chipotle will donate 33% of its sales of food on October 26th, and a garage sale is on tap as well. In addition, the girls are hoping their school will allow them to spread information about National Domestic Violence Awareness Month during the month of October. They are spreading the word through social media, Instagram and via their own social network pages.
Why has Saint John’s Program inspired these busy girls to create their own volunteer network? Amelia spoke of being part of a “sisterhood of help;” she says she has two sisters and a whole school of sisters at St. Francis, so it’s part of who she is. She says she’s proud to be able to continue the circle and help women going through such hard times. Anna Kate says it’s exciting that, instead of raising funds for groups across the country, she can actually “make a difference right here in our own community.” Both girls come from families and Catholic grammar schools that have modeled and valued service to others. As you might also expect, both girls have high aspirations beyond high school; Amelia would like to become a doctor or veterinarian, while Anna Kate may want to be a surgeon or practice law. I have no doubt that these young ladies will be successful, and more importantly, that their lives will make a real difference in our world. They already are well on their way as the Saint John’s Teen Circle gets its start with these two young women, already empowered to make the world – and Saint John’s – a better place.