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 Meg 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.
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.
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.
Through a grant with the Maine Humanities Council we were able to invite Roxane Gay to videochat into one of our GAB meetings. She shared her thoughts on self confidence (a tricky thing), standing up for yourself, and writing as a woman. From her website, here is her bio:
Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, the nationally bestselling Difficult Women and the New York Times bestselling Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel. She has several books forthcoming and is also at work on television and film projects.
Five Questions with Roxane Gay
Favorite book: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Woman (dead or alive) to have dinner with: Beyonce
Favorite feminist anthem: Money by Cardi B
Favorite place to go on a feminist rant: Twitter
Perfect day (in one sentence): Spending time with my person, doing anything, anywhere.
Are you ready to cause a ruckus?
We have been supporting the activism of girls for a long time but you have told us that there is a great need for convening and supporting the activism work of adult women too. You are already calling senators, sending postcards, donating. But you want to do more. You are not alone. This is a chance to bring together, in coalition, the many women in our state who’ve thought to themselves, “I can’t just sit here. I need to do something.”
In the vein of our Girls Coalition Groups, we’re offering ongoing Women’s Action Groups. These groups, facilitated by trained Hardy Girls adult muses, will be focused on educating ourselves and taking action on the issues that matter most to women and girls. Each group will focus on a specific issue that is most relevant to them. Topics could include but are not limited to: combatting street harassment, sexualization of girls and women in the media, access to reproductive health, human rights, and children’s rights. Whether you want to make change on a local level or advocate nationally, this is your opportunity to act. Groups are open to women of all walks of life and political leanings.
Thank you to everyone who attended our kickoff events!! We’ve finalized our group locations/days/times. Registration for groups is now open. Check your schedules for which one will work best for you. Groups will meet monthly March – December 2017 and be $15/mth. Participants can choose to make a one-time donation of $150 or sign up for monthly payments of $15.
- Augusta – 2nd Wednesdays of the month – 6-7pm – Register here.
- Bangor – 1st Thursdays of the month – 6:30-7:30pm – Register here.
- Brunswick – 2nd Thursdays of the month – 6-7pm – Register here.
- Portland – 1st Wednesdays of the month – 6-7pm – Register here. WAIT LIST ONLY
- Portland – 2nd Thursdays of the month – 7-8pm – Register here. WAIT LIST ONLY
- Portland – 1st Thursdays of the month – 6-7pm – Register here.
- Waterville – 2nd Wednesdays of the month – 7-8pm – Register here.
WAIT LIST NOTE: If you are interested in a group that is full, please still submit your registration for the wait list. We are monitoring these and adding/consolidating groups based on registration interest.
In October 2015, Hardy Girls was awarded the MYAN Impact Award for Empowering Organization.
In September 2014, Lyn Mikel Brown, HGHW Co-Creator, received a Bammy Award for College Professor of the Year from The Academy of Education Arts and Sciences International.
In March 2013, Lyn Mikel Brown, HGHW Co-Creator, was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame. The Maine Women’s Hall of Fame, held in March in observance of Women’s History Month, takes place at the University of Maine at Augusta and is dedicated to women whose achievements have had a significant statewide impact and have significantly improved the lives of women in Maine and whose contributions have an enduring value for women.
In May 2012, Karen Heck, HGHW Co-Creator, was awarded the Statewide Advocate Award by the Maine Children’s Trust at their 2012 Annual Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Recognition Awards.
In May 2012, Kristin Bishop, a HGHW Girls Advisory Board (GAB) member, was appointed by Gov. Paul LePage to serve as a student representative on the Maine State Board of Education. Kristin begins her two-year term in June 2012 as one of only two student representatives on the board. Kristin will represent Maine’s 2nd Congressional District on the board. The Maine State Board of Education advises the commissioner of education on matters concerning state education laws and makes education policy recommendations to the legislative and executive branches of state government.
In April 2012, Maya Brown, 2011-12 Girls Advisory Board (GAB) President, was the recipient of the Youth Philanthropist of the Year Award from Maine Association of Nonprofits and Colby College.
In June 2011, Jackie Dupont, Vice President of Research and Program Development for Hardy Girls Healthy Women was honored with the Maine Youth Action Network (MYAN) Impact Award for her work empowering girls.
In 2010, Hardy Girls Healthy Women was presented with a 2010 Governor’s Award for Nonprofit Excellence at the Annual Colby Institute for Leadership Luncheon at Colby College. The award was presented by the Maine Association of Nonprofits to the six Maine nonprofit organizations that have achieved significant results by utilizing ingenuity combined with sound management practices.
Governor Baldacci said, “This year’s honorees represent the innovative spirit that has earned Maine a reputation for top quality workmanship, service and a commitment to excellence. Each company selected has an incredibly strong record of community service and workforce investment. I am proud to honor them all as distinguished members of our community.”
In 2010, Tobi Schneider, HGHW board member, was recognized by Colby College and the Maine Philanthropy Center as Central Maine Philanthropist of the Year for her years of work in the central Maine community, including having been with Hardy Girls Healthy Women since the start.
In 2010, HGHW’s President, Megan Williams, was awarded the first ever Open Door Award by the Frances Perkins Center, an award given to a woman under 30 who has demonstrated exceptional leadership.
In 2009, HGHW’s President, Megan Williams, was listed in the Mainebiz Next List, a list of ten amazing people who are shaping the future of Maine’s economy.
In 2009, Lyn Mikel Brown Ed.D., HGHW Co-Creator, was awarded the New diMensions Award with Mark Tappan, Ed.D. by Boys To Men, a non-profit whose mission is to reduce interpersonal violence by offering programs that support the healthy development of adolescent boys, located in Portland, ME.
In 2008, Karen Heck, HGHW Co-Creator, was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame. The Maine Women’s Hall of Fame, held in March in observance of Women’s History Month, takes place at the University of Maine at Augusta and is dedicated to women whose achievements have had a significant statewide impact and have significantly improved the lives of women in Maine and whose contributions have an enduring value for women.
In 2006, Karen Heck, HGHW Co-Creator, was awarded the Maine Statewide AAUW Achievement Citation Award, the highest award for extraordinary community involvement in women’s issues.
In 2006, Lyn Mikel Brown Ed.D., HGHW Co-Creator, was awarded the Maine International Film Festival’s GAL (Groundbreaking Activist Leadership) Award for Ugly Ducklings, a cutting edge multi-media program designed to educate and inspire people to take action against bias-based bullying and harassment gay and lesbian youth.
In 2005, Lyn Mikel Brown Ed.D., HGHW Co-Creator, was awarded the Sarah Orne Jewett Award in Portland, ME. The award is given to outstanding women by The Maine Women’s Fund.
In 2002, Hardy Girls Healthy Women’s fabulous Co-Creators, Karen Heck, Lyn Mikel Brown and Lynn Cole, won the Business and Professional Women’s Women of the Year Award. Each year these awards are given to women who are outstanding in their work and/or in helping other women and families.
Did you miss the best weekend of the year: Girls Rock! Weekend?