Varsha, a 17-year-old Boston teen, used to believe that there were confines in her life because of societal norms around what a girl can or cannot do. But Varsha enthusiastically credits her involvement at YES over the past four years with helping her realize that her potential is boundless.
Varsha has been active in YES since 8th grade. She has participated in Operation SnowSports and the Girls Outdoor Adventure Leaders (GOAL) program. Varsha says her involvement with YES’s girls-only program helped her build self-confidence and shape her into the young leader she is today.
GOAL is a year-round program that provides pre-teen and teen girls (ages 11-14) with opportunities to develop leadership skills, explore individual sports, improve self-esteem, set and achieve goals, and challenge gender stereotypes. “There are so many opinions and derogatory remarks made about girls and what they can do,” says Varsha. “When you’re in a program like GOAL you really open up your mind about the things girls can do.”
Varsha was selected to become a Teen Leader with the GOAL program during the 2015-16 school year. “I wanted to show other girls that as long as they are confident, they can do anything.” As a teen leader, Varsha helped plan and lead activities for GOAL and served as a positive role model. She helped coordinate activities ranging from a healthy relationships workshop to the girls first experience with outdoor rock climbing.
Most importantly, Varsha cultivated a safe space for the GOAL girls to talk about the issues affecting their lives. “There was a girl who was uncomfortable in her own neighborhood. That wasn’t something she first was comfortable talking about,” Varsha remembers. “At the end of the school year, she had been able to open up about her life in an unsafe neighborhood. It inspired other girls shared their own personal experiences with the same issue.” Together, they came up with potential solutions and GOAL staff member, Allyssa, helped counsel the girl through her situation.
The lessons Varsha learned as a teen leader gave her a boost of self-confidence in the classroom. “For physics class, we had to make cars out of mousetraps. I was on a team of girls – and we came together as strong leaders and succeeded.” she proudly says. Varsha says she believes in overcoming stereotypes and showing others that girls can do anything.
This year, Varsha is a junior at Boston Latin Academy and looks forward to a second year as a GOAL Teen Leader with YES. In the future, she looks forward to attending college and staying involved with YES to pass on her leadership skills to other YES youth.