A Birmingham-based organization is hoping to make the Internet a place where girls not only feel safe, but one that empowers them to grow and learn from their peers. GirlSpring, which actually started up a few years ago, is launching its online platform Sunday with a party — and beyond that, it’s looking for girls to fill its pages with content, said Executive Director Kristen Greenwood.
“The most important thing for people to know is that we are a resource for girls and a safe and reliable place on the web for girls to get information and to share information,” Greenwood said. “However, in order for that to happen, we need girls to help us! We are looking for girls to write content for the website.”
GirlSpring was founded in 2010 by philanthropist and social activist Jane Stephens Comer, a Birmingham native who has run her own business, served on the boards of numerous community organizations including the Alys Stephens Center, Alabama Ballet, Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Museum of Art, and spearheaded the effort that resulted in the creation of ArtPlay at UAB, “a center dedicated to cultural programming for children that thrives today,” Greenwood said.
“After her many accomplishments and civic contributions, Comer knew her next endeavor needed to tap into one of her greatest passions — empowering women and girls,” she said, adding that Comer saw how investing in the development of women would improve communities, relationships, businesses and the world.
GirlSpring differs from some other girl-oriented organizations “in that our main program platform is our website, an online community created for girls (13-18), by girls,” Greenwood said. “It is a place for girls to share experiences, ideas and growth.”
The material on the site “is presented in the form of blog-style articles, submissions of artwork and poetry, and biographies of female role models,” known as “(S)heroes,” Greenwood said. “Although some of our content is provided by adults — there is a section where girls can ask questions, a place for girl-centric community events and volunteer opportunities, and internship information — the majority of it is created by girls.
“We have a group of teen girls called ‘Springboarders’ that help shape the website, help us come up with topics, create content, and help plan programs and events. The young women in this group serve as advisors to the website and role models for their peers. In addition to the website and Springboarders, we also have mentoring and public programs.”
Girls who want to participate do so online through an application on the GirlSpring website found under the “Speak my Mind” tab. “Topics that we cover include almost anything that a tween/teen might be interested in or might need help with,” Greenwood said.
“When girls ask me what they should write about, I tell them, ‘Anything you think would be helpful to you if you were reading it.’ The topics we address are broad and cover everything from bullying, to peer pressure, to dating/relationship advice, to eating disorders and everything in between. All of the articles are vetted before being posted.”
In an age when the Internet can be used to shame, attack and exploit women and girls, GirlSpring aims to demonstrate that the digital world can be a nurturing environment under the right circumstances and with an enlightened perspective.
“I wish that there had been an organization like this when i was in high school,” Greenwood said. “The idea that you can share information, and gather information from your peers — helpful information — is really cool. Perhaps there is someone that has experienced the same issue as you but might have a different perspective, and live in a different neighborhood, or go to a different school, but that shared experience connects you somehow.
“I also love the idea of girls having a place to showcase their work. We have some very talented young female writers, artists, and poets in Birmingham, and the idea that they are sharing their work in a forum that can be viewed by anyone is very empowering.”
The GirlSpring Website Launch Party will be held Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Altamont School. Learn more about GirlSpring at girlspring.com.