February Vacation Recess: More Fun for Our Members

The week of February 17th was Winter Recess for area schools. Even though schools were closed, Girls Inc. held it’s doors open for full day programming. During the February Vacation Week Program, members at both the Albany and Schenectady sites had a week full of fun and learning. Each day was a different STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) theme. The girls participated in various STEM activities during the week and went on field trips to the museum and ice skating.


Powerhouse of Panelists: Be the Change!

“Be the change!” was just one of the messages that were taken away at Community Conversation: STOP Bullying.

A powerhouse of panelists, with moderator Robyn M. King, LMHC (not pictured), addressed bullying everywhere it occurs, to an audience of about 100 people for Community Conversation: STOP Bullying at Schenectady County Community College February 20. L to R: Randy McGough, Schenectady County Commissioner; Shai Butler, Chief Diversity Officer at College of St. Rose; Tandra LaGrone, Executive Director, In Our Own Voices; Rowie Taylor, Executive Director, YWCA Northeastern New York; Ebony Belmar, Social Worker at Mont Pleasant Middle School.

Bullying and how to stop it was the subject of a panel discussion attended by about 100 people on February 20 at Schenectady County Community College (SCCC).


Girls Incorporated of the Greater Capital Region and Schenectady County Human Rights Commission jointly presented this discussion and buffet breakfast in the Van Curler Room of SCCC’s Elston Hall. Where bullying occurs, the many forms it can take, and how to combat those behaviors were addressed by five local professionals.


Panelists were Ebony Belmar, volunteer mediator at Center for Community Justice; Shai Butler, Chief Diversity Officer at College of St. Rose; Tandra LaGrone, Executive Director at In Our Own Voices, Inc.; Rowie Taylor, Executive Director of YWCA Northeastern New York; and Randy McGough, Commissioner at Schenectady County Human Rights Commission and retired Director of Human Resources Management at New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.


Moderator was Robyn M. King, Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) at SCCC and recognized expert on bullying and interpersonal civility.


Bullied as a child, King is currently writing a book she calls Eating Lunch in the Bathroom: My Story. As the 2014 anti-bullying ambassador for Girls Inc. of the Greater Capital Region, King was keynote speaker at an event last November which introduced the non-profit organization’s focus of ending bullying to an Albany Marriott audience of more than 100, including Mark Streb, Capital District Regional Representative for Governor Andrew Cuomo; Senator Kathy Marchione; Assemblyman John T. McDonald III; and Councilwoman Marion Porterfield. Many of those in attendance requested further exploration of bullying in the local area with ways to bring it to an end.


Thursday’s event allowed the five panelists to shed more light on bullying, which can occur in the workplace among adults, as well as among children in schools. Guests left with anti-bullying tools and techniques that can be applied immediately in their own environments.


A representative of New York State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk attended on February 20, in addition to administrators from Siena College, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Educational Opportunity Center, Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York, SEFCU, and National Grid.


“The Commission is pleased to partner with Girls Inc. to ensure all residents’ rights in Schenectady County are protected and respected,” said Angelicia Morris, Executive Director of Schenectady County Human Rights Commission in a press release issued February 17. “The Commission chooses the path of conducting and supporting educational forums to promote a dialogue between residents and officials that helps address issues of concern and arrives at constructive solutions.”


Ashley Jeffrey is Executive Director at Girls Inc. From its centers in downtown Schenectady and Albany, the non-profit agency serves more than 200 girls ages 5 to 18 after school each day. Many of the girls attend schools that were recently highlighted in the media after bullying took place among students.


“Bullying may be happening all around these girls but they know that when they walk through the doors at Girls Inc., there is a zero tolerance policy toward bullying. Many parents of our members say they like the fact that Girls Inc. is a safe place for their daughters after school. We have programs in place that stress kindness and collaboration, and we can see that in here, it’s working. We’d like to help that success expand out into the community.”


This presentation was the second of two sessions that, Jeffrey said, will give true insight into bullying, the forms it can take, how to recognize bullying behavior and its detrimental effects, and ways to prevent it.


Schenectady County Human Rights Commission was established in 1965 by Schenectady County Legislature to foster mutual respect and enhance understanding among all racial, religious, and ethnic groups in Schenectady County, and to assist individuals in securing their constitutional rights. It consists of 15 Commissioners appointed by the County Legislature.


Girls Incorporated inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and boldsm. It helps girls in grades K-12 overcome economic, social, and gender barriers to grow up healthy, educated, and independent by providing life-changing programs and experiences. Free after-school programs are provided at their two centers in Albany and Schenectady and full-day programming is offered during the summer months and school vacation weeks. Select programs and workshops are delivered to schools and community organizations throughout the Capital Region.


Girls Incorporated of the Greater Capital Region is part of a national organization providing vital educational programming to millions of girls in the U.S. and Canada, particularly in inner cities. The organization was founded locally in 1937 as the Schenectady Girls Club. In 1990, it became Girls Incorporated of Schenectady and in 1998, became Girls Incorporated of the Greater Capital Region with an expanded service area. It merged with the Albany Girls Club in 2001. Each year, Girls Inc. of the Greater Capital Region impacts more than 20,000 girls ages 5-18. It delivers services to schools and community organizations in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties. The organization’s headquarters are on Albany Street in Schenectady, and a second site is located on Washington Avenue in Albany.