Attendees at the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue’s Be a Smart Girl event at the Ascend Prime Steak and Sushi enjoy the view high above the street.

Attendees at the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue’s Be a Smart Girl event at the Ascend Prime Steak and Sushi enjoy the view high above the street.

What does it take to Be A Smart Girl?

Celebration recognizes life-saving mentoring program for local girls

As an entrepreneurial innovator, business developer and community leader with a knack for creating success in fields ranging from hospitality to high-tech, Elaina Herber is in many ways the perfect host for this year’s Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue Be A Smart Girl luncheon.

Beyond her 20+ years’ experience working with businesses locally and abroad, Herber holds a master’s degree in Technology Management and has built multiple businesses with her husband, most recently their flagship rooftop restaurant, Ascend Prime Steak & Sushi – the venue for last week’s celebration of the Be A Smart Girl program and its network of community support. About 130 guests attended and helped raise about $75,000 for the program.

“The whole day was for our girls,” says the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Michele Heffron.

Launched at the national level but tailored for local girls, Be A Smart Girl is a comprehensive afterschool program for girls age 8 to 15, tailored to academic success, leadership and health.

“We make it fun for our kids, and cover topics they want to talk about,” Heffron explains. “Our goal is that every girl find her voice, tap into her passion and see her future goals as possible. We want them to see themselves as leaders, embrace life-long learning and take control of their health so they can be strong and resilient.”

Participants enjoy access to STEAM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and one-to-one tutoring, plus group discussions about positive choices and healthy relationships, athletics just for girls, career exploration and mentoring with female role models such as Herber.

“We have been offering this program since it was launched from Boys & Girls Clubs of America many years ago. It has proven to be an important vehicle where girls can share their barriers and fears along with their hopes and dreams,” says Kathy Haggart, President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue. “We have literally saved lives through this powerful mentoring program, as often our girls will share issues they have not divulged to anyone else and our staff has been there to help.”

Here’s why.

• Most girls don’t see themselves as leaders. Girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer from depression in adolescence, and research shows their self-esteem is far below their male counterparts – a trend that continues well into young adulthood, Heffron says.

• When it comes to body image, by the time girls reach the age of 17, some 85 per cent have been on some type of diet.

• Looking ahead to the girls’ future, Washington has one of the largest gender wage gaps in the United States, ranking 42nd, a gap that’s far worse for women of color. Of the 73 top companies in Washington, only five are headed by women.

Looking at the global picture, Be A Smart Girl also supports girls as world citizens, looking beyond local borders and connecting with girls in other countries who don’t get the same opportunities.

You can help!

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue is recruiting smart, motivated and successful women in the community to help with this valuable initiative.

  • Share your career story with girls at one of our clubs
  • Make a financial investment in the program
  • Discuss sponsorship ideas with your employer
  • Be a mentor!

“With the support from women and men in our community who can be that voice of encouragement, our hope is that each and every one of our girls has an opportunity to be all they hope and dream to be,” Haggart says.

To learn more, contact Michele at mheffron@bgcbellevue.org

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