Massachusetts Nonprofit Spotlight: MEDIAGIRLS
This feature is part of a recurring series on Massachusetts nonprofits, through which Boston Mamas Founder + Editor Christine Koh donates her digital real estate once a month in order to shine a light on great work that is happening in this fine state to help those in need. If you work at or know of a fantastic Massachusetts nonprofit worthy of feature, fill out this form!
This month’s spotlight is on MEDIAGIRLS, an organization whose mission is to teach girls and young women -- mainly in underserved schools in the Boston area -- how to harness the power of media for positive change. The responses below are written from the voice of MEDIAGIRLS Founder & Executive Director Michelle Cove.
What is the story behind MEDIAGIRLS?
It’s hardly news that girls pine over their appearance and make endless comparisons. What is new is how virtually impossible it has become to protect girls from the onslaught of emaciated models, half-clad women grinding in music videos, girls and women “cat fighting” on TV and over Twitter, and celebrities Photoshopped to freakish perfection.
Even if we could get girls to “unplug” from technology, they’d still be bombarded with media on highway billboards, building exteriors, sides of buses, and gas stations. The harm being done to girls is undeniable, but most of us feel powerless to stop it.
As a media maker, mom to a tween daughter, and mentor to young women, I felt compelled to do something. So I created a 10-week curriculum called MEDIAGIRLS, to be taught for 90 minutes once a week. The plan was to teach middle-school girls to challenge these images and evaluate media messages with a critical eye. They would also create their own content on social media and our blog that makes girls feel good about themselves. Yes, good.
I piloted the program in summer 2014 in my town of Brookline, MA for a group of eight girls, taking note of what they most enjoyed and revising the curriculum based on their own feedback. It was thrilling to hear how much they had to say about the pressures from media they felt once they got started! I started training college students in Boston to learn the curriculum and best practices, and bring it to far more girls.
What are the core community activities of MEDIAGIRLS?
Our main activity is our programming: We teach our 8- or 10-week afterschool program to middle school girls once a week at 10 partner schools (mostly underserved schools). Girls are taught by trained female college students in Boston how to discover their self-worth; think critically about undermining and sexist media messages; and publish empowering content using social media. We often do talks for parents and educators to help them guide girls in navigating complex media messages. We also run at least one fundraiser/community program per year. On January 28, we are providing a panel called Fathering in the Screen Age with 5 well-known men in the Boston community who have tween/teen girls.
How has MEDIAGIRLS made an impact?
- We will have taught our program to almost 500 girls by spring 2018 at 10 sites (we were founded in 2014).
- Over 20,000 unique visitors have visited our website, where we post parenting tips and strategies, and provide resources and activities.
- We have talked to thousands of parents and educators at workshops about how to help their girls navigate media messaging and create empowering content.
- Raised over $300,000 from foundations, fees for services, and donors.
- Received press from outlets including local CBS news, ABC news, NBC news, and The Boston Globe.
- Won two pitching competitions, including Technology Underwriting Greater Good (TUGG), where I led a team of 10 volunteers to the first place prize of $50,000; and the Power Launch Pitch, where MEDIAGIRLS came in 2nd place and won $17,000.
What’s an example of how MEDIAGIRLS has made a difference?
Ten of our teen MEDIAGIRLS graduates just launched a #MGMakeover #RealDeal Challenge. It is a campaign to encourage girls to be more real and authentic with one another on Instagram. They are saying no to "perfect" curated pics, and yes to authenticity and true sharing. They are literally making over the media, and you can see a gallery of their posts at www.mediagirls.org.
What does MEDIAGIRLS need most right now?
Funding + help with design for marketing materials
Thank you, MEDIAGIRLS, for all you are doing for girls and young women in the Boston area! If you want to support MEDIAGIRLS, an easy way would be to share this feature. And another great way would be to drop them a donation!