Gwen’s Girls was established in 2002 by Gwen Elliott, former commander of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. During her tenure, Gwen often observed gaps in services to girls, particularly in neighborhoods inundated with poverty, drugs and violence. After retiring, she was inspired to launch a program that would address the unique challenges faced by urban girls living in at-risk areas.
Since inception, Gwen’s Girls has responded to the needs of more than 3,000 girls by filling critical gaps in services and education through our prevention, reunification, school-based and community-based programs and services. We also have a residential group home that serves delinquent and dependent girls, with a specialty in girls who are pregnant and parenting.
Regardless of the services that our girls receive, we believe it is important to address the whole girl and the unique challenges that she faces. Our conceptual program model is based on research and best practices, with gender-responsive strategies and solutions that address the cultural, economic and gender-based needs of our clients.
We know that the more support we can offer to each of our girls, the better chance they have of realizing and reaching their potential. To that end, we utilize mental and physical health and wellness education as well as therapeutic groups (e.g., grief and loss, sexual abuse, eating disorders) to address core issues that girls may be facing. More importantly, Gwen’s Girls fills the role of cheerleader, tutor, mentor and support team for the girls, offering concrete and tangible paths to success through mentoring, training, tutoring, personal coaching and enrichment activities that expose the girls to venues beyond their everyday lives.
Our conceptual program model is based on research findings and best practices – we work from a positive perspective to build upon each girl’s personal strengths and provide opportunities and experiences for each girl to be successful. Gwen’s Girls addresses the 4 pathways, or life domains, that are critical to a girl’s development and future success: family, education, health and wellness and life skills.
To meet the needs of our girls, we offer prevention services; reunification services; a residential program for delinquent and dependent girls with a specialty in pregnant and parenting girls; school-based programs; community-based programs; a summer camp; a job readiness program that includes academic enrichment and tutoring, career guidance, and a job shadowing component; counseling; health and wellness workshops; life skills; STEAM education and mentoring.
In 2010, Gwen’s Girls earned full accreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA), and we were reaccredited in 2013. To quote COA: “Achieving accreditation demonstrates that the entire organization has met the highest standards of quality the field has set.” We sought this self-imposed “gold standard” to ensure excellence in the delivery of all programs and services.