We’re excited to present our latest annual report here.
Each month, those of us working with Hardy Girls Healthy Women, want to share the talent and vision of some of our incredible staff, volunteers, students, and board members.
For our first monthly spotlight, we are super excited to introduce you to Meg Charest – one of Hardy Girls Healthy Women’s Muses, who is also serving on the Board of Directors this year.
Muses, in case you don’t know, are students at Colby College who volunteer their time, passion, and energy to facilitate and participate in Girls Coalition Groups with middle schoolers in the greater Waterville area.
We asked her a bunch of questions; read on to hear what she has to say!
How did you get involved with Hardy Girls?
I grew up in the Portland area, so I knew Hardy Girls from seeing GAB in action and from the Girls Rock! Awards, but I really got involved with Hardy Girls when I came to college and learned more about the Girls’ Coalition Groups–I was really excited to work with girls* in the greater Waterville community and it has really been an amazing three years getting to know a bunch of brilliant young women* in the local schools.
What program are you involved in? What is your role? Can you explain it a bit?
I’m involved with the Girls* Coalition Groups program, so I go with a co-Muse once a week during the school year to a local middle school and we work with a group of about 10 female-identified young people and work together to think about the issues relevant to the girls in the group in their environments and together build capacity and community through working together to learn about the different issues that strike accord with the group. The role of a Muse is kind of like that of a facilitator at the beginning of the year, and by the end I’m a support figure as the group members develop relationships with one another and direct the group more independently.
What’s a typical day like for you as a Muse?
On a typical group day my co and I drive to the school we are working with, check in, and meet with our group in the same place every week for 45min to an hour. We usually start group with a Rose, Bud, Thorn (everyone shares something good from the last week, something they are looking forward to, and something that wasn’t so good), which I really like as a way of checking in with everyone and hearing everyone’s voice right off the bat. From there we have a conversation and sometimes do an activity about a topic that the group chooses–we’ve done women in politics, bullying, mental health, gender in sports, gender in media, and a bunch of others. It’s really cool to see what is interesting and salient to the girls* in the groups, and how they choose to direct their explorations of those topics–every group I’ve worked with has really amazed me with the intention they have with their interactions and the way they take care of each other and check in with one another as they delve into issues.
What’s one thing you love doing as part of HGHW?
I really love when I get to go to the Girls* Rock! Conference. I love watching GAB in action because they are just amazing, and it’s been a super empowering experience for the girls* in my groups, who, even for just a few hours, are surrounded only by people who want to know what they have to say and take them seriously. The whole event is just such an amazing example of what young women* are capable of accomplishing and such a celebration of power and information, and I love that it is an intergenerational space that is youth-driven in such a meaningful way. It’s an honor to be part of that space and experience the efforts of remarkable young women* paying off and creating impact.
What do you wish you’d known earlier or that someone had told you when you were a younger woman?
I wish I had known that it is possible to accomplish really amazing things with people who aren’t your friends through collaboration. I think as a woman, I’m really fortunate that society affirms friendships, especially friendships with other women because those relationships are incredibly powerful and deeply important to me. However, they aren’t the only relationships that are important to know how to cultivate, and I don’t think that young women are always shown that or encouraged to seek out relationships that aren’t romantic partnerships or friendships. For a long time I thought the people I worked best with would also be my close friends, and sometimes that is absolutely true, but as I’ve had more experiences, I’ve realized that really amazing things can happen through working relationships, and that it isn’t realistic, efficient, or necessary for all of those relationships to be friendships–sometimes a shared goal is all that’s needed to make change happen and starting to understand that has really changed the way I approach projects and develop action plans. Coalition work is so important!
What have you learned, or can you imagine learning from the middle school students you work with?
I’ve learned so much from the students I work with, it’s hard to choose just one snippet to share… I think I’ve learned a lot about ways that saying no and/or developing an individual way to participate or not to participate is a really powerful way to share brilliance. Sometimes my co and I will come with an activity planned or an idea of how we would ideally like the conversation to move, and sometimes the group is really excited about those plans and sometimes they aren’t, and they share that feedback with us. Being assertive and sharing an idea or a need that is different from what peers are saying or from what people who are older than you are saying can be hard and takes a lot of courage, so that’s something I really admire about the students I work with and that has taught me a lot about how I approach resistance and sharing different ideas in other areas of my life.
You have a free day to yourself — what do you do?
I’d probably start the day with a run–I’m lucky enough to live only a few miles from the ocean when I’m not at school, so running to the water is one of my favorite things to do. From there, I’d probably read or write outside for a little bit, maybe at the beach, and then finish the day out by cooking dinner with some friends or family and enjoying some time with them.
Do you have any skills or talents that most people don’t know about?
No useful ones but I can ride a unicycle and I’m trying to teach myself to fiddle which I’m hoping will be a talent soon…
What are you happiest doing when you’re not in school or at work?
I really love to be outside, especially with friends or family–hiking, running, biking, canoeing, and swimming are some of my favorite things to do in the outdoors, but I also really love to just hang around and read, paint, or write in my journal.
Favorite place in Maine?
I love all of it but I’d have to say the Downeast area–Schoodic, Blue Hill, and Stonington are some of my favorite places to visit.
Kathleen is a feminist, activist, volunteer, thinker, and writer. She learned about Hardy Girls Healthy Women when she participated in the Maine Association of Nonprofits Emerging Leaders Program, which trains community leaders for nonprofit work and board service. She had a successful retail banking career at Camden National Bank for nearly a decade and is currently focusing her efforts on nonprofit work and activism in the Portland community. Kathleen is proud to be involved with HGHW and wishes she could have benefited from a program like it in her youth. In her free time, she can be found writing, curating perfect playlists, entertaining her friends, hiking the Portland trails and basking in the sun!
Five Questions with Katy
Favorite book: Anything by David Sedaris
Woman (dead or alive) to have dinner with: Too many to list! I’d throw a fabulous dinner party with all of my feminist idols, friends, family and community members so we could all be in each other’s presence, learn from one another, and have an excuse to dress up!
Favorite feminist anthem: Bloody Mother F****** A****** by Martha Wainwright. Crude title but a beautiful song. It’s about a woman coming to the realization that she exists in a world that wasn’t built with her needs in mind, and she decides to intentionally stop doing the emotional work to make others (men) comfortable and accepting of her. It stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it because of its raw honesty.
Favorite place to go on a feminist rant: With any of my brilliant, beautiful, intersectional feminist friends. They keep me challenged and evolving.
Perfect day (in one sentence): Sleep in, workout, iced coffee, bright sun, good music, good friends, good conversation.
Lisa Van Dyk is the Grants Officer at Maine Medical Center, where she manages private foundation and corporate funding to the medical center and supports internal teams in developing initiatives and programs to seek external funding. She graduated from Calvin College, where she studied biology, and received her MBA from the University of Delaware. In her spare time, Lisa can most likely be found working out, exploring Portland’s incredible restaurant scene, or reading to keep up with her two bookclubs. She is excited to serve HGHW as a board member because she truly believes in nurturing the potential of all girls and young women.
Five Questions with Lisa
Favorite book: The Brothers K by David James Duncan
Woman (dead or alive) to have dinner with: Tina Fey
Favorite feminist anthem: “Just One of the Guys” by Jenny Lewis
Favorite place to go on a feminist rant: Wherever I happen to be!
Perfect day (in one sentence): Waking up on Peaks Island, going for a run along the coast, and enjoying the day on the beach with family and friends.
Meg Charest (She/Her/Hers) is currently attending Colby College where she is studying English and Education with a specific interest in trauma-informed education practices. She is involved with Hardy Girls Healthy Women as a muse and as a program leader and is so excited to to be a board member! In her free time, Meg most loves to read and be outside in the woods, by the ocean, or in a beehive or garden. She greatly laments the scarcity of pockets in her clothes.
Five Questions with Meg
Favorite book: Can’t pick one so I’ll go with my favorite recent one — Educated by Tara Westover
Woman (dead or alive) to have dinner with: Raquel Willis
Favorite feminist anthem: As Cool As I Am by Dar Williams
Favorite place to go on a feminist rant: The dining hall, as long as there is ample room to do arm gestures for effect
Perfect day (in one sentence): Starts early, ends late and includes sunshine, time with some cherished friends/family, the ocean, and ice cream.
Gabby Rivera is a queer Latinx writer living in Oakland, CA. She is currently writing AMERICA, America Chavez’s solo series, for Marvel. America is Marvel’s first Latina lesbian superhero. Gabby’s critically acclaimed debut novel Juliet Takes a Breath was listed by Mic as one of the 25 essential books to read for women’s history month, and it was called the “dopest LGBTQA YA book ever” by Latina. Put simply by Roxane Gay, it’s “F***ing outstanding.”
Five Questions with Gabby Rivera
Favorite book: Flaming Iguanas by Erika Lopez
Woman (dead or alive) to have dinner with: Sylvia Rivera
Favorite feminist anthem: Freedom – Various Artists (Panther Soundtrack 1996)
Favorite place to go on a feminist rant: Alicia’s kitchen in Harlem
Perfect day (in one sentence):Strong coffee, a black t-shirt, and laughing so hard all I can do is wheeze.
Soraya Membreno is Bitch Media’s director of community. She is the daughter of Nicaraguan immigrants and a pre-Lebron Miami native. She writes about issues of accessibility, representation, and culture-straddling/identity building in literature and academia. Her writing has appeared in Catapult, Post No Ills, and The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind.
Five Questions with Soraya Membreno
Favorite book: That changes every few months but I will forever have a soft spot for Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Woman (dead or alive) to have dinner with: Claudia Rankine
Favorite feminist anthem: Bad Reputation by Joan Jett
Favorite place to go on a feminist rant: A nice, long, all-caps group text
Perfect day (in one sentence): A beach, a book, many baked goods, and friends.
Hebh Jamal will deliver the keynote at our 2019 Girls Rock! Awards on March 22, 2019. Hebh Jamal is a muslim, Palestinian-American activist and current college student at City University of New York. In 2017, while Jamal was still in high school, the 17-year-old established herself as a leader in the fight against bigotry by organizing a New York City high school walkout. She’s also a leader of Integrate New York City, a student-run organization focusing on school segregation, and works as a youth policy fellow at New York Appleseed, a nonprofit fighting for equal access and resources in New York City schools. You can follow her on Twitter.
Five Questions with Hebh Jamal
Favorite book: Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
Woman (dead or alive) to have dinner with: Angela Davis
Favorite feminist anthem: Survivor by Destiny’s Child
Favorite place to go on a feminist rant: On Facebook
Perfect day (in one sentence): An intellectual conversation about contemporary issues over tea in a cafe in Istanbul 🙂
Amanda Gorman delivered a BRILLIANT keynote at our 2018 Girls Rock! Awards. From her website, here is her bio:
Called the ‘next great figure of poetry in the US’, at 19-years-old Amanda Gorman is a published author and the first ever Youth Poet Laureate of the United States of America. She’s spoken around the country from the UN to the Library of Congress, alongside the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hillary Clinton Her first poetry book, “The One For Whom Food Is Not Enough”, was published in 2015 by Pemanship Books. She is Founder and Executive Director of One Pen One Page, which promotes literacy through free creative writing programming for underserved youth. She is a Harvard junior in the top of her class, and writes for the New York Times student newsletter The Edit.
Five Questions with Amanda Gorman
Favorite book: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Woman (dead or alive) to have dinner with: Maya Angelou
Favorite feminist anthem: The Combahee River Collective Statement
Favorite place to go on a feminist rant: Outside the dorm room door of my best friend
Perfect day (in one sentence):A day with the ones I love doing what I love.