Two-Generation Pilot Program Launching Summer 2015

In the fall of 2013, The Women’s Foundation announced a new strategy – one that sought to invest in the long-term economic security of girls in our region. We asked organizations to consider how they could support middle school girls specifically (an important time for decisions about health, education, and relationships – but a time period that is often under-resourced and under-funded). We also specifically asked organizations to consider how they could invest in these girls AND invest in their mothers, grandmothers, aunts… whomever was their family caregiver. The idea is to invest in two generations simultaneously, helping to improve prospects for both family economic security in the short-term and girls’ economic security in the long-term.

Map from Girls Issue Brief unbranded Flash forward to today, and a pilot of this model is preparing to launch in DC. College Success Foundation-DC and the YWCA of the National Capital Area are partnering to leverage each organization’s core strengths and services, building a program that holistically engages middle school girls and their families. Their first partner school site is Chavez Prep Middle School in Columbia Heights. There, staff from College Success and the YWCA are banding together with an initiative to provide particular programs and supports for girls. A tailored curriculum will support girls’ education and on-time grade progression, leadership development, and healthy choices, while also connecting mothers to education and job training, financial tools, case management and other supportive services that can help strengthen the family’s economic security.

The program also has a special emphasis on strengthening the relationship between daughter and mother. For example, following girls-only and mother-only group breakout sessions, there are opportunities to come back together in facilitated group activities and discussion – on topics about health, communication, or education. Likewise, there are opportunities for mothers and daughters to experience things like their first college campus visit in “safe” ways. For a girl, these visits help her envision all the possibilities for her future. For a mom, these visits offer an opportunity to visit a campus together with other moms, consider the future college experience that’s possible for her daughter but may be foreign to her, and to think about her own interests in education or workforce training.

At a recent Women’s Foundation briefing for investors in this work, a moderated panel included students from Chavez Prep. As one student explained it, she saw great strength in her family. Women were the matriarchs and anchors in her life. But as an immigrant family, she knew her mom and others didn’t have the skills that they needed in the US, to contribute to the community how she knew they could. She loved the afterschool program where she could be with other girls and talk about important topics. She couldn’t wait for her mom to be able to engage meaningfully in a program like this too, and for them to do it together.

We look forward to updating you on the results of this summer’s pilot program, and then the next steps to take lessons learned and launch the program on a larger scale, to serve more women and girls in our community. In the meantime, check out the new research we just released on the status of girls in the Washington region. And if you’re interested in investing to make this work a success, contact Megan Machnik at

Goals of Girls Work


The Women’s Foundation was selected to be part of the Ascend Network, based out of the Aspen Institute. We’re one of 58 organizations selected from 24 states and the District of Columbia, representing the leading edge of a national movement around two-generation approaches. Learn more here.

Resource – Issue Brief on Girls’ Economic Security in the Washington Region.

In April 2015, Washington Area Women’s Foundation released our issue brief on the economic security of girls in the Washington region.

Women and girls are powerful social change agents in their families and communities. However, their power and potential can be helped or hindered early in life. Many girls in our region face significant obstacles that not only affect their well-being today, but their educational success, earning potential and economic security in the future. By investing in girls’ lives, we ensure that they grow up and enter adulthood on the best possible footing, empowered to have a positive impact in their communities.

This issue brief highlights key issues and demographic trends in the Washington region, and dives specifically into issues of poverty and opportunity that affect girls’ capacity to attain economic security in adulthood. Our objective is to better understand girls’ experiences and circumstances and to work together with the community to identify strategies that reduce barriers, increase opportunities and increase the number of girls who are able to live economically secure lives both today and for generations to come. Read the entire issue brief, here.Girls Issue Brief Cover


Two-Generation Grant Investments Aim to Break the Cycle of Poverty

In December 2014, The Women’s Foundation announced new grant investments of $630,000 to 20 organizations across the region. In a series of blog posts, we’ve shared more about the strategies behind those investments, including community college innovations we are supporting and early childhood investments to improve quality and access for low-income families in the region. Today, we’ll discuss how we’re taking a two-generation approach to our work, and what that looks like for our Grantee Partners.

The Women’s Foundation’s grant investments are made through Stepping Stones, an initiative designed to increase the economic security of women and girls living under 200 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $39,580 for a family of three). We accomplish this goal by investing in three core issue areas that research has shown to have the greatest influence on the economic security of low-income women and their families: asset building, early care and education and workforce development.

Our most recent grants spread investments across the region—in Washington, DC; Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland; the city of Alexandria; and Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia. In total, these investments are projected to reach over 3,500 women and girls, potentially increasing their assets and incomes by $2.9 million over the next year.

Several of these investments take a two-generation approach to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Two-generation strategies respond to the needs of children and their parents together, to influence short- and long-term economic security simultaneously. This strategy is a natural extension of Stepping Stones’ track record serving female-headed households, which has had tremendous results to date (increasing the income and assets of women and their families by more than $45 million since 2005). However, we know that in order to truly break the cycle of poverty in the Washington region, we must take a lifespan approach to our work. For us, this work began when we expanded our target population to all women under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and continued last year with the launch of a specific strategy to invest in the long-term economic security of girls. We accomplish this by investing specifically in middle school aged girls and their mothers or female caregivers.

Last year, our inaugural investments were planning grants that allowed organizations the dedicated space, time and resources to explore two-generation strategies that could serve middle school aged girls and their mothers or female caregivers. This year, we’re pleased to invest in a partnership between the YWCA of the National Capital Area and College Success Foundation – DC (CSF-DC). Following their planning grants, this year the YWCA and CSF-DC will engage families through a new partnership with Cesar Chavez Public Charter School’s Bruce Prep Campus in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of the District’s Ward 1. The YWCA is one of a few organizations experienced with serving both girls and women, and brings a gender lens to their work. Through this new partnership, the YWCA will primarily provide supports for the adult women in each family, while CSF-DC will draw upon their expertise serving youth beginning in middle school, as evidenced by their flagship Higher Education Readiness Opportunity (HERO) program. This partnership model builds upon each organization’s strengths, and allows each to more holistically serve families. The Women’s Foundation’s 2015 investment supports additional planning and the launch of the program pilot in summer 2015. With additional resources, these partners plan to bring the program to more women and girls in the 2015-2016 school year.

The Women’s Foundation believes there is great potential for the two-generation strategy across our work, beyond our investments in girls. (For example, the two-generation work we’re supporting at Northern Virginia Community College.) We were selected to be part of the Ascend Network at the Aspen Institute, a national network of leaders pioneering two-generation programs and policies. Through this collective work, we aim to build connections between national and local innovation, and spur additional two-generation work building the economic security of women and girls in our region.

Investing in Girls in the Washington Region

Download the complete Girls Issue Brief here: Girls Issue Brief 2015

In 2005, The Women’s Foundation launched Stepping Stones, a multi-year, regional initiative focused on building the economic security of low-income women and girls. Grant investments support key issues identified in our Portrait Project research as pivotal to economic security: jobs and career readiness, financial education and wealth creation opportunities, and quality early care and education.

Historically, Stepping Stones investments have focused on building the economic security of low-income women – and particularly female-headed households, which research has shown are the most economically vulnerable families in our community. However, for many women and girls in our region, poverty is multigenerational. The Women’s Foundation recently expanded its target population to take a life cycle approach, and now includes all women and girls under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Through our Stepping Stones work, the Foundation then launched a new strategy in 2013 for investing in our community’s girls.

A Snapshot of the Issue

As young girls develop into women, there are clear and critical markers that can support or challenge their future economic security. Adolescence is an important opportunity to build foundational skills, encourage positive choices, and reinforce girls’ health and well-being so that they can attain economic security in adulthood.

Key goals for investing in girls are to:

– Empower girls as social change agents
Girls are an asset to our community, and have the potential to shape and lead change in their families and neighborhoods. Girls should be encouraged to advocate for themselves, for others, and to mobilize their communities in meaningful ways. By supporting the positive development of girls, we can break the cycle of generational poverty, and build racial and gender equity in our region.

– Support high school completion
As of 2008, one in ten girls in the region did not complete high school. For girls of color in our region, the disparities are glaring: while 6 percent of white girls did not complete high school, 37 percent of Latina girls, 14 percent of Asian girls, and 12 percent of African American girls did not complete high school.[i]

High school graduation is a critical determinant of economic security, affecting long-term earning potential. By 2018, it is projected that only 8 percent of job openings in Maryland, and 9 percent of job openings in DC and Virginia, will be available for high school dropouts.[ii] With a high school diploma, workers can earn 82 percent more than those who did not complete high school.[iii]

– Encourage positive choices that decrease risky behavior and early pregnancy, and increase health and well-being
Girls who become teen parents are more likely to drop out of school, earn less, and live in poverty. Only 40 percent of teen mothers are likely to have graduated from high school and just 2 percent of girls who have children before age 18 finish college by age 30.[iv]

While teen pregnancy rates are dropping nationally and in the region, rates in parts of the region remain some of the highest in the country. Furthermore, despite reductions in the teen pregnancy rate, the overall number of teen births remains stubbornly high in some communities. For example, in 2011 in the District, 58% of all births to teens aged 15-19 were in Wards 7 and 8.[v]

Our Approach

In our research, we found a dearth of programs focused on girls in general – and especially girls in middle school – as well as a lack of data or research on issues facing girls. This critical gap made it clear that it was important to target our initial investments to focus on middle school aged girls.

To translate the key goals for investing in girls:

– For middle school aged girls, supporting high school completion in the long-term means supporting academic readiness, encouraging school engagement, providing opportunities for college and career exposure, and developing 21st century skills and competencies that help girls build a positive vision for their futures and ensure that they are prepared for tomorrow’s economy.

– For middle school aged girls, encouraging positive choices that decrease risky behavior and early pregnancy means providing leadership development opportunities that build a positive sense of self, fostering relationships with parents and caring adults that provide support and guidance, and increasing access to comprehensive sex education. Additionally, a focus on girls’ health and well-being includes good nutrition, physical exercise, and the importance of positive body image.

Furthermore, beyond supporting girls alone, The Women’s Foundation asserts that there is a need for two-generation strategies – that is, strategies that simultaneously work to improve the economic security of girls and their mothers together. Despite promising research that two-generation programs and policies can help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, our research could not identify any significant program that combines a two-generation approach with an intentional effort to reach the critical demographic of middle school girls. Through a cohort model – working with both girls and their mothers or female caregivers – The Foundation seeks to spark new strategies, support programs bringing a gender lens to this work, and understand changes in positive outcomes and economic security that exceed isolated work with youth or their parents.

Finally, The Women’s Foundation will begin its investments with a targeted place-based approach, focused on Washington, DC and Prince George’s County, Maryland. While the Foundation recognizes significant poverty rates in every jurisdiction in our region, this narrow geography will allow for an initial focus on neighborhoods with the greatest density of girls and women in need, and allow for tailored, deep work within each community.

For More Information

Contact Program Officer Lauren Stillwell at or 202.347.7737.



[i] 2010 Portrait of Women & Girls in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Washington Area Women’s Foundation. 2010. PDF File. Web. 24 Sep 2013. <>.

[ii] Carnevale, Anthony P., Nicole Smith, and John Strohl. Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, June 2010. PDF File. p. 121-122. Web. 24 Sep 2013. <>.

[iii] Ibid., p. 95.

[iv] Shuger, Lisa. Teen Pregnancy and High School Dropout: What Communities are Doing to Address These Issues. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and America’s Promise Alliance, 2012. ASHX file. p. 1. Web. 24 Sep 2013. <>.

[v] “Data.” DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, n.d. Web. 24 Sep 2013. <!__data>.

What Advice Would You Give to Your 13-Year-Old Self?

Last month, Washington Area Women’s Foundation announced that we’ve made new grants to three organizations that are developing two-generation strategies that will serve middle school girls and their mothers.

We’ve been talking and thinking a lot about middle school recently, and that got us reminiscing about those exuberant and confusing years between elementary school and high school. We asked the Foundation board, staff, donors, Grantee Partners and friends to think back to middle school and share the advice they’d give their 13-year-old selves. We may not have the ability to send anyone back in time, but maybe our lessons learned can help others – in middle school and beyond.

Many of you shared your advice on Facebook, Twitter and on one of the glass walls in our office. Here are some of our favorite words of wisdom:

13 yo advice

Thank you to all who shared your memories and thoughts! Got something to add? Leave a message in the comments below!