WOW – Working on Womanhood
Guiding the Journey to Womanhood
Diamond* was just nine years old when she lost her mom to violence. Now in high school, she continues to grapple with the pain of her mother’s murder. At a time when other teens are making friends and having fun, she has often felt discouraged, angry and alone. Grief has made it difficult to do well in school.
Since being introduced to the Working on Womanhood (WOW) program, Diamond is showing growth. She now has a trusted circle of support and is receiving the encouragement she needs to regain inner-strength and a sense of optimism. With a highly skilled WOW counselor to help guide her through tough times, Diamond is improving academically, connecting with her peers and gaining the confidence she’ll need for future success.
Achieving womanhood is hard work. The WOW program offers young women like Diamond a bridge from fear, frustration and doubt to positive choices, emotional intelligence and hope. At Youth Guidance, we believe that when a girl works on womanhood, there is no limit to the positive influence she can have in the world.
*Name changed for confidentiality.
For many girls, the journey to womanhood—and opportunities for future happiness and prosperity—can be cut short by emotional wounds, low self-esteem and other challenges. In 2011, a group of female social workers at Youth Guidance joined forces to help young girls from Chicago’s toughest schools achieve personal and future career success. Today, WOW is a thriving school-based, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) counseling program working to improve the social-emotional competencies of young women in grades 7-12.
Using a trauma-informed approach, WOW targets young women with significant risk factors for dropout or delinquency such as: teenage pregnancy, trauma, drug or alcohol abuse, self-harm, gang involvement, fighting, academic failure and discipline referrals. Many WOW girls have also been victims of sexual or physical abuse. Participants are identified through referrals by teachers, school administrators and parents.
WOW acknowledges that young women not only face unique challenges, but also have different ways of coping with the same stressors that negatively impact young men. The program currently serves more than 1,000 girls in 20 Chicago area schools. Each week, participants attend peer group sessions led by a trained counselor. In group, they discuss problems, share experiences and receive help in visionary goal-setting. Students also learn respect for others, and most importantly, themselves. WOW helps young girls discover their unique gifts and blossom into the women they hope to be.
WOW Program Assessment & Evaluation
Youth Guidance’s Research and Evaluation Department is continually learning from qualitative and qualitative data to make process improvements and strengthen WOW’s program model. To better understand the social-emotional needs of young women, WOW implemented a number of new evaluation tools during the 2014-2015 school year, including: the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Adolescent “Patient Health Questionnaire” Depression Index, The Child and Adolescent Trauma Symptom Scale and the Reactive-Proactive Aggression Questionnaire. These clinical tools formally assess WOW students’ exposure to trauma and mental health needs at intake. Findings revealed that the vast majority of WOW participants have experienced trauma and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- 84% of WOW students reported 5 or more lifetime exposures to trauma.
- 82% of WOW students have had someone close to them die.
- 67% of WOW. students have been slapped, hit or punched by someone.
- 30% of WOW students have seen someone else being shot at or shot with a real gun.
Research shows that students’ levels of depression and aggression decreased during WOW program participation. On the Patient Health Questionnaire, 72% of WOW participants reported some degree of depression at pre-test.
“In WOW I have learned how to control myself physically and emotionally. I can see myself in a better way now. Before the program I was all over the place, and barely had any idea of what it meant to be self-confident and put together. But now, as a growing person—as a growing female—I understand and I know.”
– 10th grade WOW student, Bogan High School
Partnering for Innovation with Lurie Children’s Hospital & Northwestern University
In 2014, WOW and Lurie Children’s (LC)/Northwestern University formed a partnership to work towards a community-engaged WOW program evaluation. Through the support of an Evergreen Invitational Women’s Health grant, the partnership has developed into a unique collaboration between grassroots providers and academic experts to build upon WOW’s effectiveness in addressing behavioral health problems in at-risk girls. Youth Guidance and LC plan to embark upon a curriculum and training refinement process that involves a community and academic advisory committee and work group, as well as enhanced counselor training. This project will emphasize best practices and links between program goals and theory to increase WOW’s ability to impactfully serve even more young women in the years ahead.
- Core Values
- Video: Student Reflection
- Video: LaDonna′s Story
- Voices of YG
- WOW Supporters
- Donate to WOW
According to a 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, high school aged girls in Chicago were more likely to attempt or seriously consider suicide, use alcohol, and engage in risky sexual behaviors, as compared to their male counterparts. Girls need a sense of life’s possibilities, the capacity to make positive decisions, and a solid understanding of the biological, emotional, and social forces that accompany the road to womanhood.
WOW students learn to set realistic goals and gain confidence in their ability to achieve them. The program cultivates Five Core Values in young girls to help safeguard their future success.
Self-Awareness: I have power. I know who I am. I accept who I am. I inspire others to become who they want to be.
Emotional Intelligence: I am resilient. I recognize and use all of my emotions. I respond in healthy ways to other’s emotions.
Healthy Relationships: I respect myself and others. I maintain healthy boundaries in my relationships. I communicate my needs and wants. I advocate for myself.
Visionary Goal-Setting: I have goals. I am motivated. I overcome barriers. I work on my goals every day.
Leadership: I am a leader. I set goals. I am accountable. I seek mentors to show me the way. I take a role in improving my community.
Angelique Mayes-Lamon, WOW Counselor
Proud Moment – “In the graduating class of 2016, I’m proud to say that both the valedictorian and salutatorian were WOW students. Their hard work and dedication was an inspiration to other WOW students and they encouraged other students to reach for their goals.”
Best Part of the Day – “The best part of my day is when I run groups. It is awesome to see the girls so excited to come share their experiences and learn from each other. I am inspired by my girls’ commitment and resilience.”
Supporting WOW means supporting the awesome potential of young girls. By giving, you help increase Youth Guidance’s capacity to deliver transformative outreach and resources that help girls forge more realistic and hopeful pathways toward womanhood.
Every gift has the power to change a life!