Download the Open Windows Brochure and please be generous in donating to help as many young county girls as possible enjoy a summer learning experience!
A total of 12 St. Lawrence County girls were sent to camp in 2016, plus we helped the Ogdensburg PeeWee Girls Hockey Team attend the Girl Power Hockey Tournament in Oswego, all thanks to the generous donations of AAUW members and friends. The camperships included: 4-H Camp Overlook, Clarkson Horizons, Camp Invention, SUNY Potsdam Gymnastics, HOBY Leadership Conference and SLU Lacrosse Camp. Among those community friends was a another very generous donation from Stewart's Shops for "camperships."
Since 1989 the Branch has sponsored OPEN WINDOWS For GIRLS, a series of educational enrichment grants for low-income girls from St. Lawrence County to attend a summer camping experience to broaden their horizons and provide an open window to the future. Dozens of girls ages 10-15 have attended 4-H Camp, Girl Scout Day Camp, basketball camps at local colleges, dance lessons, Horizons, a summer science program at Clarkson University, and a summer science and technology program at SUNY Canton.
Open Windows was created to combat our frustration with the reality for many girls in St. Lawrence County. It is the largest county in NYS. It is one of the poorest of the rural counties, raking 55 of out NYís 62 counties in poor health; 23% of our children live in poverty; 52% of the county is in economic distress; the teenage pregnancy rate is 11 in 1,000 of females ages 15-19 on a 3-year average.
Now, 25.9 percent of all births in St. Lawrence County are to teen mothers. That is slightly higher than the state rate of 25.1 percent. In 2010, St. Lawrence County had 884 births to teen mothers. The percentage of people below the poverty rate is 17.2%. In Januray 2011, the unemployment rate was 10.5%, the highest in NYS.
Many girls have no dreams for themselves. They are afraid to go summer camp, they are afraid to go to college, they are afraid to cross the invisible line that surrounds the North Country. They are held back by poverty, isolation, low self-image, non-supportive families and communities.
Open Windows for Girls was designed to show them they could do something different, go somewhere new, learn about something new, develop a talent, and meet people outside of their own proscribed circle.
The program started small - with the $70 proceeds from two bake sales, we sent two girls for a week of summer dance lessons at Potsdam College. The branch had made a difference in two young lives. We made the American Association of University Womenís mission statement to promote equity for all women and girls, lifelong education, and positive societal change real.
We decided to start a fund-raising program for low-income girls, ages 10 to fifteen, to enable them to experience enrichment programs (mostly in the summer) away from home. The branch has held bake sales, sold note cards, invited the community to Valentine Day Teas, held House and Garden tours, arranged bus trips to museums, and accepted donations for the program.
The Open Windows grants usually range from $150 to $200 each, paid directly to the camp or school. Often we offer partial scholarships, working with other community-based organizations, like school teacher associations, to help girls go to camp. The branch works with volunteers in the local school to identify the girls for the program.
From the initial two girls in 1989, we have been able to help 10-15 girls each year. The girls come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They are gifted, average, of low ability; they come from broken homes, from intact homes, some come from foster care, some have been abused. Some, at the last minute, are too afraid to go away from home for a week of camp, so we always try to offer some day programs. Lack of confidence about new situations is a tough line to cross for some girls.
The girls have gone to sports camps at local colleges, to 4-H camp, to Girl Scout camps, to math and science camps, on school trips to Washington, DC, to the state and county fairs to compete in 4-H competitions, to technology camps, to environmental camps, and to music camp.
We have been instrumental in developing new camping opportunities for girls. The Open Windows committee helped to develop a brand new Adventure Camp for Girls which was sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extensionís 4-H Camp. The girls worked on leadership shills, talked about what being a girl means, and took a 3-day/2 night canoe trip into the Adirondacks to test their abilities.
The program has been a success. Each year we invite our Open Windows girls to come back in the fall and describe for us their experiences. The 1998 OW Class was particularly articulate. One of our first Open Windows girls graduated from high school and went on to become a coach at her alma mater. Her self-confidence and leadership skills are helping a new group of girls to mature. The branch won an award from New York State AAUW for initiating the program.
We canít change the lives of every girl, but we can make a difference for some. We have helped others to see the potential in young girls. We continue to open the window of opportunity for girls in our county.