EVERETT — Hailey Gaddis, 9, has some advice for other girls.
“Stay strong and help each other and you will make it,” she said.
Gaddis, of Snohomish, has been part of InspireHer for about a year.
It’s a program through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County in which adult mentors work to empower young women. They aim to provide support, educational experiences and positive role models.
The program includes three large events each year, which draw more than 100 girls each. They are Law and Justice Day, a Healthy Lifestyles event, and STEAM Day, focused on science, technology, engineering, art and math. Girls don’t have to be part of the Boys & Girls Club to participate.
Gaddis’ favorite moment was during STEAM Day. She asked a marine biologist if she’d ever seen a mermaid “even though I know they are not real,” she said.
Scarlet Rohrscheib, 11, of Snohomish, has gone to three STEAM Days. At school, she sometimes knows things before the lesson because she learned about them at the events.
The program helped convince 8-year-old Kaylee Kynaston, of Snohomish, that she can do anything if she doesn’t give up.
“When I was bad at soccer, I practiced and kept trying and then I scored two goals,” she said.
Girls and their goals are at the heart of InspireHer.
Noni LaLone helped start the program in Snohomish County. She’s with Moss Adams, a major accounting, tax and consulting firm. The company has a program focused on bringing more women into fields where they’ve been underrepresented. LaLone wanted to spread that effort to the community.
It’s important to support women in professional settings, she said, but the biggest impact comes from helping the next generation. One of the best ways to help young women flourish is to give them good examples. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” she said.
LaLone rallied a team of volunteers and partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Marci Volmer, director of the Snohomish club, agrees that it’s important to not just tell girls what they can achieve, but to show them.
“It’s 2018. Everybody knows they can be anything, right?” she said. “Except that’s not true. Not every girl knows that. Not every girl has seen that.”
On a cool, gray morning in October, Volmer and LaLone joined six others around a long table in the Moss Adams office, on the eighth floor of a building in downtown Everett. Three more volunteers phoned in. The InspireHer team was making plans for two big events in November.
They jotted down notes on the activities they’d confirmed for Healthy Lifestyles: art projects, martial arts, self-defense, yoga. Then they walked through the schedule for a fundraising breakfast.
Alex Lark, who works for Housing Hope, was the only man at the table. He became involved after learning about InspireHer through Leadership Snohomish County.
“It’s an opportunity to be an advocate, to be an ally, to help empower women,” he said. “As a person with privilege, it’s my duty to do that.”
The girls they work with are the future, said Kelsey Sjoberg, with Moss Adams.
“I was fortunate to have great female role models in my life, but I recognize that not all girls have that,” she said.
Katherine Bosch, a deputy prosecuting attorney, came on board because she has seen the need for more women in the legal world. She’s one of the masterminds behind Law and Justice Day. She wanted girls to meet professionals and learn about what it’s like to work in law. Depictions on TV of women lawyers, police officers or judges usually are inaccurate.
Susanna Kerns, 17, of Monroe, learned about InspireHer through Law and Justice Day. She remembers one of the judges sharing a personal story of overcoming challenges, including an abusive relationship.
Kerns’ advice to other girls her age is to know when they need back-up.
“When there is a sudden change, it is not the end of the world,” she said. “You need to know that you can ask for help.”
How to help
Volunteers are welcome. InspireHer is looking for people with diverse skills and interests. They must pass a background check to work with children. To learn more, email Marci Volmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Financial donations also are accepted online at bgcsc.org/get-involved/donate. Donations can be specified for InspireHer.