On a rainy Saturday last week, a small group of volunteers and teens combed the streets of #Southie, chatting and picking up trash as part of the City of Boston’s Love Your Block. It’s just one of many activities that Girls Group hosts.
Girls Group, a free program based at the South Boston Neighborhood House (a.k.a. “the Ollie”) focuses on wellness activities for pre-teen girls between 10 and 13 years old. It’s been a part of the #Southie community for decades, but after a years-long hiatus, it’s just been revitalized.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays all year long, Girls Group does activities to help teens make local friends and enjoy a judgment-free (and homework-free) zone. They have 25 participants so far, and they’re looking for more local girls to join and participate in the fun. Residents of South Boston as well as neighboring areas like Dorchester and South End are welcome.
So far, Girls Group has gone to Red Sox games, Boston history tours, the Museum of Science, and hikes outside of the city (Blue Hills, World’s End in Hingham, and Arnold Arboretum). The South Boston Boys and Girls Club spoke on drug awareness and prevention and officers from the BPD discussed community safety and cyber-bullying.
Most popular recent events have included tickets to the Opera House, a day trip to Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire, an overnight sleepover at the Ollie, a visit to a young girls leadership summit, and fall activities like apple picking and Witch’s Woods. Responses have been resoundingly positive.
Annie Cheevers and Caitlyn DeCarlo, program coordinators who started last year, both grew up in South Boston. They participated in Girls Group when they were young, and are excited to bring it back to the community.
“What you learn in these years is critical, so we work on body positivity and confidence booster workshops. They’re meant to encourage open conversation and set them up with roots in their community,” Cheevers says.
DeCarlo also manages the Ollie’s Summer Leadership Internship Program (SLIP), which combines internship opportunities for a small group of kids aged 11-14 and personalized career-building skills.
DeCarlo says, “We expose girls to a lot of different opportunities. You can join us and use us as a building block to be what you want to be.”
The Ollie is over a century old, and its executive director Kathy Lafferty says that Girls Group has always been a part of its fabric. “Over time, the program has taken breaks—it’s based on the needs and interest of the girls,” she says.
In the 1990s, there were as many as 45 girls participating regularly, and Lafferty hopes to get participation levels up again. She says, “It’s a great resource as girls go off to different schools—a way to keep them together and get them away from structured activities to spend time together. It’s a safe, supervised, but still fun environment.”
Every Monday, coordinators offer free yoga classes. Wednesdays are usually focused on wellness, with spin, boxing, or cooking classes, and Saturdays are reserved for #SaturdaysArefortheGirls field trips. The summer schedule may change the days and activities, but the calendar will give more details. The coordinators are hoping to pair with other youth groups in the area and are always looking for community members or local business owners who want to speak or lead activities.