Summer Centered: Fiona Flynn ’22 Builds Girls’ Confidence While Building her Own
The anthropology major is teaching reading and writing as a Girls Inc. Early Grade Literacy Program facilitator this summer.
As a self-proclaimed feminist, Fiona Flynn ’22 was drawn to Girls Inc.’s goal of building girls’ confidence. When she learned more about the nonprofit’s support and mentorship of school-aged girls, she wanted to get involved.
“They put the needs of each girl first,” she said, “allowing them to collaborate on their own education, which seems like a basic concept, but is not common practice in our systems today, and is something I hope informs the future of education.”
Flynn, an anthropology major and a health studies minor, is working for Girls Inc. this summer through CCPA’s Summer Serve program. Summer Serve helps support rising juniors and seniors in paid summer internships in nonprofits and social service agencies throughout the greater Philadelphia area.
Girls Inc. provides mentorship and programming to girls six to eighteen years of age with the goal of helping them navigate gender, economic, and social barriers to grow into healthy, educated, and independent adults.
As an anthropology major, Flynn has spent the past three years learning about structural violence and inequities across race, gender, and socio-economic status and how she can combat them as a Haverford student. At Girls Inc., she is working against these harmful structures in the broader community of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey in the Early Grade Literacy program.
As one of four Early Grade Literacy Program facilitators, Flynn is working with 17 6-to-8-year-olds who are struggling with reading and writing. The facilitators work under an experienced teacher and meet five days a week for a month and a half. The program they are running this summer is called “A Disney Summer Camp.”
“My job, so far, has involved creating fun and engaging—while also educational—lesson plans for the girls, as well as executing them in the classroom setting--under the supervision of the teacher of course,” said Flynn. “The specific week I have been assigned to fully conduct on my own focuses on the movie Moana, so I have been incorporating a lot of lessons around Indigenous culture and ties to land and sea—which a lot of my previous Haverford coursework has centered around, as I took Jacob Culberton’s ‘Indigenous Culture and Identity’ my sophomore year. It has been a little challenging to try and simplify these concepts to be grasped by younger minds but the girls have been doing a great job!”
As her students learned about Indigenous culture and other topics, like recycling and water preservation, they also learned sight words, practicing literacy, and building reading confidence. As Flynn led them, she learned more about teaching and education.
“I thought I would have virtual teaching down to a science after experiencing it as a student for the past year and a half, but trying to hold a six-year-old’s attention over Zoom for more than 15 minutes at a time is a skill I have yet to acquire,” she said. “But on a more serious note, I have also learned the power of collaboration, and giving a voice to the girls in our programs. ... Education shouldn't just be a one-way street, with all of the power given to the teacher. You can learn so much from your students, no matter what age!!”
Flynn plans to take what she has learned from the experience into her senior thesis--which will likely have a feminist lens--and her fall courses like “Feminist Ethnography”. However, her biggest takeaway has been the relationships she has built with her students and fellow facilitators.
“First, it is amazing to see already how much the young girls we are working alongside have grown; building confidence in themselves and building lasting relationships with their peers,” she said. “But, I have really enjoyed working with my other college facilitators as well. ... I have just really loved working in an all-girl environment, it is not only empowering, but also comforting. I know the main goal of the camp is to build the girls’ confidence and love in themselves, but it is rubbing off on me as well!”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ campus-supported summer work.