The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Girls for a Change Empowers Girls of Color in Silicon Valley

Through the Virginia-based nonprofit organization Girls for a Change, Girl Action Teams in Richmond, VA, have been changing their world.

One team of girls partnered with employees at Virginia Credit Union. They painted a colorful mural of black women on the brick wall of a downtown Richmond building.

Another team partnered with the Richmond City Sheriff’s Department. They organized a Date with Dad dance at the city jail so that girls with imprisoned fathers could bond with their dads.


Now, Girls for a Change (GFAC) has arrived in Santa Clara. It received a $50,000 grant from the Applied Materials Foundation to implement Girl Action Teams locally. The teams empower black girls and other girls of color, who have been historically marginalized, to make positive social changes in their communities.

“Girl programs are underfunded and resourced. Our curriculum is strong for girls of color, whose voices are dimmed, not heard,” said Angela Patton, GFAC President and CEO since 2013. “It is a solution-oriented curriculum. Girls are given the tools and support to solve their own problems.”

GFAC provides free Girl Action Team (GAT) curriculum, coach training and on-going staff support to existing organizations, including schools, that want to implement the program. The first Santa Clara coach training session, hosted by Applied Materials in Santa Clara, was March 8.

Girls for a Change coach Nickey McMullen trains the volunteer team coaches.

“Everybody has what it takes to be able to coach a team,” said McMullen. “I teach how to connect with the girls using your own personality and how to engage them in the curriculum.”

Two coaches work with a team of 10 – 25 girls for 12 weeks, meeting with the team two hours weekly after school. They coach girls on how to use their skills and resources to improve their lives and communities.

Each GAT designs, funds and implements its own project. In the process, the girls learn self-esteem, feelings of competency and self-determination. They learn that they have the power to change the world.


Generation Girl Initiative

GFAC is one of 20 nonprofit organizations that received a 2018-2019 grant from the Applied Materials Foundation as part of its Generation Girl initiative.

The initiative is based on research showing that girls learn stereotypical roles while young. It’s important to teach them to think expansively at an early age.

“The Applied Materials Foundation believes all children should have the confidence to reach their potential. We hope Generation Girl inspires girls to pursue their dreams,” said Siobhan Kenney, Applied Materials Foundation Executive Director.

Crystal Cortes is one of the newly-trained GAT coaches. She is the Edenvale Youth Center site director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley, where she will be launching a GAT. The nonprofit has after-school programs primarily for low income, at-risk Santa Clara County youth ages six to 18.

“I want to empower girls to want to succeed and feel confident about the choices they’re making,” said Cortes. “I want girls to have a dream, and no matter what’s going on in their lives, not to give up.”

Girls for a Change will return to Silicon Valley in September to again offer GAT coach training. Additionally, it is seeking funding to bring Girl Action Teams to San Francisco and Oakland.

“When I see girls become who they want to be, who they can be, when they become self-actualized, I feel like I’m a winner,” said McMullen. “I feel like I’ve won some unidentifiable prize.”

For GFAC information, visit


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