How different would this world be if girls, from a young age, channeled their energy, passion, and enthusiasm into creative projects that built up the community around them? What if these girls were encouraged to be individuals with valid ideas, rather than discouraged by peers and social norms? What if girls truly believed that they could accomplish anything they wanted?
These are the types of questions that are driving Allison Poss in her development of a powerful new program for girls ages 9-13, Girls With Ideas.
Allison is deeply familiar with the psychological challenges that face youth today–after serving as a licensed school psychologist for years, Allison went back to school for her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Leadership Studies where she continued to ask the question: What do successful leaders do to cultivate environments where creativity flourishes? In researching this question, Allison found that true creativity needs to be nurtured at a young age. In order to have a creative workforce, we need to have creative students with a wide network of support for their efforts–and that’s where Girls With Ideas comes in.
What started as a side project early last summer, Allison (along with a few of her colleagues through the international Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership organization) wanted to help 6th grade girls use their leadership skills for the betterment of their classmates and community, but had trouble finding a curriculum to employ. And, like a true creative entrepreneur, Allison and her team solved the problem by creating their own program, an early prototype of Girls With Ideas.
The results have been exceptional–the first group of girls that Allison worked with, spunky 6th graders who proudly wore ‘Girl Boss’ t-shirts, rallied together and built a reading garden in their school. With a powerful first run under their belt, Allison and her team were ready to take the program to the next level, and launched a highly successful Kickstarter campaign that brought in $21,700–the funds will be used to complete the final flagship curriculum with supporting materials. Set to launch this year, Girls With Ideas is estimated to reach 1,000 girls ages 8-14 across the nation this fall, and from there, Allison hopes to expand even deeper into schools and after-school programs, as well as introduce the program to six various camps in the Cedar Rapids area this summer.
“The skills these girls learn in our program: how to think critically, how to disagree with someone but still respect them, how to deal with failure, how to manage a project–these are absolutely the skills needed to succeed at any point in your life,” said Allison. “Between the ages of 9-13, girls’ confidence can drop 4x more than boys at the same time they’re forming a more complete self-identity. Girls With Ideas supports these girls through an important developmental stage, which will genuinely encourage them to achieve great things.”
The Kirkwood SBDC office has helped Allison with some of her strategic planning goals, marketing ideas, financial planning and has also connected her to key resources this past year.
Scott Swenson, Regional Director for Kirkwood SBDC, nominated Allison for her incredible vision. “Girls With Ideas is such a big opportunity. Allison had first-hand insight in the leadership need for girls of this age and created a uniquely powerful program,” said Scott. “We’ve been privileged to be a part of the planning team and see an enormous movement developing!”