PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A Waterville-based organization that helps young women in several counties across the state is branching out to reach the same population in Aroostook County.
The local contingent of Hardy Girls Healthy Women, a nonprofit organization geared toward enhancing the health and well being of girls and women, is partnering with Upward Bound, a federal program that provides support to students preparing for college entrance, to host a three-part film series in Presque Isle. The films will illustrate the ways in which media adversely affect the healthy development of youth.
The film series kicked off Tuesday. Films also will be shown at 6 p.m. the next two Tuesdays, July 14 and 21, in Wieden Auditorium at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
The event is being co-sponsored by Women, Work and Community, Girl Scouts of Maine, Aroostook Mental Health Center, and the Aroostook County Battered Women’s Project.
The series is part of a larger program Hardy Girls Healthy Women is constructing in The County to offer programs and services to empower young women.
“This is part of our ongoing work in Aroostook County,” Gillian Bower, outreach coordinator for Hardy Girls Healthy Women, said Tuesday. “The film series is part of an effort to enhance programs in the area and implement new ones.”
Hardy Girls Healthy Women’s programming targets second to 12th grade girls and helps them explore new areas of interest, challenges them to learn new skills and assists them in building alliances with other girls, according to Bower.
Past events have included a leadership and social activism conference along with a seminar to encourage young women to get involved in math, science and technology. Other events have educated girls about money matters, art and health.
The organization began building an Aroostook County coalition in March, when Hardy Girls Healthy Women officials met with school professionals, health and social service providers, members of women’s groups and others. During the meeting, measures were put in place to identify the challenges that girls face and their strengths.
According to the report, a number of challenges were identified. They included the feeling that girls don’t believe they have options outside of settling down and having children, a lack of youth activities and a lack of transportation.
Identified strengths included the feeling that smaller communities foster closer bonds between people and the sentiment that County girls are high-energy, self-sufficient self-starters.
“We are going to use those lists of challenges and strengths to expand the programs that are in place for girls right now,” Bower said. “We are also looking to bridge gaps by starting new programs.”
Last night’s film, “Killing Us Softly 3,” analyzed how the media depicts women through the use of ads and TV commercials.
“Tough Guise,” to be shown July 14, examines the relationship between what it means to “be a man” in American culture and widespread violence in our society.
The final film, “Mickey Mouse Monopoly,” scheduled for July 21, examines the world Disney films create and the stories they tell about race, gender and class.
“We have new programs that we want to get started on, and this is just one of them,” Bower said Tuesday.
“People in The County have been absolutely wonderful during this process,” she continued. “The meetings we have held have been well attended and generated a number of great ideas. People here want to create an excellent atmosphere for young women, and we are going to work together to do it.”