The end of my tenure is just a week away and I want to take one last opportunity to say “thank you” to you, the amazing members of the Hardy Girls community for the adventure that has been the last decade.

When I started volunteering with Hardy Girls in 2003, while still a student at Colby College, I couldn’t believe I’d landed such a great internship.  I’d been looking for a stronger connection with the Waterville community and a place where I could translate what I’d been learning through my coursework into practice.  What I didn’t know was that I’d found a beautiful community of changemakers and a sisterhood that would inspire and support my personal and professional growth for the next ten years.

When the board offered me the position as executive director in 2005, they changed the course of my life.  I never imagined I’d run a non-profit, especially not at 23 years old.  But when I moved into leadership at Hardy Girls, I did it with confidence because I knew I was surrounded by women with years of experience, who were eager to mentor me as I grew into the position.

Guided by our co-creators’ vision of both providing strength-based programs to girls in central Maine and empowering adults in girls’ lives to stand with girls to change the unhealthy culture in which they are growing, Hardy Girls has grown from a volunteer-based organization to a widely respected resource with a national reputation.  We have increased the number of girls served annually by over 600%, launched the Training Institute, and helped seed coalitions of girl-serving organizations, such as SPARK Movement.  And, we’ve done it all while keeping girls’ voices at the center of everything we do.

I love reporting to all of you on our successes and by all measures, this last program year has been our best yet.  Nearly 1,000 girls participated in our programs throughout Maine and more than 1,300 adults used our tools and resources to create hardiness zones in their communities around the country and internationally.  We launched three new curricula this spring and developed a distribution partnership with Project Girl, an arts-based media literacy program in Madison, Wisconsin.  And, we had our first full year of programming in the greater Portland communities with Girls’ Coalition Groups in Cape Elizabeth, Breakwater, King, and Westbrook schools.  This year marked our 15th annual Girls Unlimited Conference in Waterville and our first ever southern Maine Girls Unlimited Conference in Portland.  But, best of all, we made a substantial difference in girls’ lives, such as Cassidy’s and Tess’s:

“Because of the Girls Advisory Board, I learned that there are other girls my age out there that care about the same issues that I do, but maybe see them in different perspectives. Through collaborating on these different perspectives and ideas, we can actually make a change in people’s lives. Having a few minds working together to make a difference can really go a long way.” –Cassidy, age 16

“I didn’t know my classmates cared that so much about me and now I can tell because through the Girls’ Coalition Group everything has opened up more and it basically helped. And this one person that I didn’t hang out with before, now we’re close and she tells me when she has problems and I tell her.” – Tess, age 13

There are very few people who get to have the kind of professional experience I’ve had in their lifetime, and even fewer in their first job out of college.  I can’t begin to express sense of gratitude, fulfillment, and pride that I feel as I wrap up my transition.  I’m thankful for the co-creators, the board, the hard-working staff, all of our amazing volunteers, and each of you who have believed wholeheartedly in our vision and invested so generously in our mission.  Hardy Girls Healthy Women is poised for continued growth and success and I look forward to watching it happen.

My last day at Hardy Girls is June 28th.  The next step in our leadership transition involves bringing on an Interim President who will steward the next search process through the fall.  Look for an announcement on Monday about our Interim President!

As always, you can be in touch with our Board Chair, Anne Belden, with any questions.  She can be reached at abelden@me.com.
Thank you all, again, for the many ways you’ve contributed to what Hardy Girls Healthy Women has become.

My best to all of you,

-Megan