In January 2010, America’s Promise and AT&T launched My Ideas Grant to inspire young people to take action against our drop-out crises. Michelle Shegda, founder of Girls PACT, capitalized on this opportunity to pursue her passion for helping young women navigate life. She invited several high school girls to join her in developing the Girls PACT program. Michelle was awarded the $10,000 for the September 1, 2010 – May 31, 2011 funding period and facilitated the first Girls PACT program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Venice. Since then, Girls PACT has evolved into a truly unique program that empowers young women to be more than a stereotype or statistic.
The success of the program is driven by Michelle’s enthusiasm for knowledge and her direct experience with teen pregnancy. She witnessed teen pregnancy first hand when her twin brother fathered a child in their senior year of high school. She was directly affected by the implications this pregnancy had on her brother, parents and family. While Michelle went off to college, her brother was coping with the struggles of fatherhood.
The unwanted pregnancy stimulated a lot of questions within Michelle regarding sex, relationships, birth control and STI/STD’s. Raised in the Catholic School system, Michelle was not educated in sexuality. Like most teens, the extent of Michelle’s knowledge came from friends, older siblings of friends, rumors, television and magazines….So, Michelle’s curiosity motivated her to locate reliable resources (Thank you Planned Parenthood!) to educate herself on sexual health. Michelle spent her college years advising friends on menstrual cycles, ovulation, sex, birth control, abortions, sexually-transmitted diseases…all the important subjects that no one ever teaches young people.
Eventually, Michelle worked for an organization that provides job readiness and life skills to young adults’ ages 17-21. As an instructor, Michelle met too many young women that had left high school due to an unplanned pregnancy and were returning to school at 18 or 19 to obtain their GED. Of course, the fathers were not involved in the child’s life and ignored paying child support. After many conversations with these young women, Michelle learned that a lack of self-esteem (“STUFF”) was the culprit of poor decision making. These young women did not feel good about themselves, lacked effective communication skills and were deficient in strong personal values. It frustrated Michelle to witness the hopelessness in these young women and she vowed to be a support person for each of them.
Today, Girls PACT is a super-supportive family that encourages all young women ages 15-24 to “Rock Ur Stuff!”
Click Here for more details about the growth of Girls PACT!
Click Here to learn more “stuff” about our Founder & Executive Director!