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YWCA GirlsFirst

  • YWCA GirlsFirst
  • 708 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
  • Seattle, WA 98122
  • 206.899.6344

Program Description

The mission of YWCA GirlsFirst is to encourage leadership, instill confidence, develop skills and provide opportuntities to girls of color.

This is a year-long intensive leadership program that starts the summer before freshman year. Activities include:

  • Three-week Summer Leadership Academy
  • Overnight weekend retreat at Seattle University
  • Weekly afterschool homework sessions
  • Monthly Leadership in Action days
  • Selected curriculum from Girls Incorporated

After their freshman year, GirlsFirst alumnae are encouraged to continue participation and offered more opportunities to develop their skills, including:

  • Tutoring
  • Mentorship
  • Paid summer internships

This program is open to all girls who have the desire and potential for leadership and excellence, but is specifically designed to serve girls of color who face social and economic barriers to success.

Success Stories

15-year-old Tsewone Melaku says she was a quiet, little person before she got involved with YWCA GirlsFirst.

Her first summer in the program was a revelation. She took part in the three-week Summer Leadership Academy that showed her how to set goals, build a support network and gain the skills she would need to succeed in high school and life.

YWCA GirlsFirst encourages leadership, instills confidence, develops skills and provides opportunities for girls of color. Through the program, Melaku also received ongoing guidance and support during that critical first year of high school; connected with an attorney as her adult mentor; completed a summer work internship at the Seattle Art Museum; and even got to meet former Museum Executive Director Mimi Gates.

This year's GirlsFirst Summer Leadership Academy began on July 19 with 70 new participants and ended with an overnight retreat at Seattle University. The Leadership Academy is an opportunity for young girls of color to develop relationships and build skills in a safe, fun and educational environment. The Academy provides a firm foundation to help prepare participants for high school and beyond.

Services Provided

  • Arts and cultural
  • Career exploration and counseling/internships
  • College fairs/campus visits
  • Community service/service hours
  • Leadership development
  • Mentoring
  • Parent/family services


Race & Ethnicity

  • American Indian or Native Alaskan: 0%
  • Asian or Pacific Islander: 0%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 0%
  • African American: 0%

Populations Served

  • Academically At-risk
  • Academically High-performing
  • ESL Students


  • Less than 25%

Colleges Attended
by Alumni

  • Howard University
  • Middlebury College
  • University of Washington-Seattle Campus
  • Washington State University

Matriculation & Completion

  • 4-yr College Matriculation: 50%
  • 4-yr College Graduation: 35%