Spark Change Day ignites civic engagement, advocacy know-how for Texas’ teen girls

Mental health, gender equity, dating violence and more on the agenda

Staff Reports

Girls Empowerment Network Board Member Collette Fitzgerald (left) and Director of Community Engagement Brittany Yelverton (middle) and girls visit with State Representative
Donna Howard (right) as part of Girl Advocacy Day. This free advocacy event was renamed Spark Change Day and will be held virtually May 15, 2021

AUSTIN, Texas – April 23, 2021 – Spark Change Day is a half-day, interactive, free virtual event that will inspire Texas girls in grades 6 – 12 to develop their unique voice so they can effectively advocate for themselves and the issues they care about. The event, which is offered at no charge, will be held on Saturday, May 15, 2021, from 1-5 p.m. Pre-registration is required.

The interactive event will include training on the power of advocacy, a review of the legislative process, interactive exploration of issues that impact girls in our nation, and the opportunity to hear from local and national policymakers. The event format will include live and recorded videos, small group breakouts, and the opportunity to interact with strong female role models.

“We would normally hold this event at the Texas Capitol and visit with elected officials,” says Adreayn Torrez, Girls Empowerment Network program coordinator. “This year, we created a fully virtual event which makes it possible for girls across the state and elected officials at many levels to get involved and still feel the magic of connecting with another.”

Local, state and national elected officials and activists have been invited to participate to share their experiences, give advice and answer questions girls have. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, State Representative Ana-Maria Ramos (Dallas County), State Representative Vikki Goodwin (Travis County) and Travis County Attorney Delia Garza, Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, Austin City Council Member Vanessa Fuentes and Austin City Council Member Paige Ellis are among speakers who have been confirmed so far.

Spark Change Day is part of the Spark Change Project, a partnership between Girls Empowerment Network and the Excellence & Advancement Foundation. Together the two organizations launched this initiative to center girls of color as leaders in advocacy, help them discover their activist voices and galvanize their peers to advocate for positive social change. High school facilitators of the Spark Change Project supported by peer mentors, located in both Austin and Houston, have been instrumental in designing the event agenda.

“We have empowered a small cohort of high-achieving girls of color and given them a safe place to learn about activism and then a safe space to invite others to join them,” says Eva Ackerman, community programs coordinator, Excellence & Advancement Foundation. “This opportunity teaches girls how to self-advocate for their community and can have important mental health benefits throughout their lives.”

Girls in grades 6 – 12 and those who are trans and non-binary are invited to visit and click on Spark Change Day to register to attend. After registration, attendees will be sent the secure link to attend. While donations are appreciated, there is no cost to attend.

Spark Change Day will include
virtual Power Chats which are small group discussions between girls and adult relatable role models about career paths, community leadership, and life in general

Earlier this year, the high school Spark Change Facilitators held a virtual Town Hall where they invited discussion amongst their peers on topics such as mental health, school to prison pipeline, environmental justice, bodily autonomy, racial justice, LGBTQIA+ equity and injustices in the school system. They used these experiences to create the agenda for Spark Change Day and will be co-facilitating small groups with topic experts.

Later in the summer, Spark Change Camp will be offered in Austin to continue the exploration of advocacy and activism. Spark Change Camp for girls entering grades 6 – 12 will be held in person in Austin from Monday, August 2 to Friday, August 6.

For girls interested in learning about advocacy and civic engagement but unable to attend, Girls Empowerment Network also offers the Unstoppable Activist Spark Kit, an all-in-one girl power activity box with a colorful journal outlining activities and prompts that teach girls about the power of advocacy and invites them to get involved about causes they care about.  The popular boxes that teach self-efficacy and the Six Cs for girls in grades 6 – 12 include virtual connections with peers and girl experts.

About Girls Empowerment Network

Girls Empowerment Network’s mission is to ignite the power in girls by teaching them the skills to thrive and believe in their ability to be unstoppable. Founded in 1996, Girls Empowerment Network envisions a world where all girls believe in their power. The organization is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with an advocacy and activism theme.

About Excellence & Advancement Foundation

Excellence & Advancement Foundation is dedicated to transforming how communities combat the school-to-prison pipeline. They support children at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system through prevention, intervention and advocacy programs.

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