LEWISTON — Too many girls aim too low, give away their power or give in to fear.
That's the premise behind a new program launching later this month at the YWCA of Central Maine. It's called Aspiring Girls.
Plans call for visits with successful women in the community and a book club with readings aimed at boosting body image and fighting bullies. There will also be a discussion group to look at issues such as drug use, assault and peer pressure.
"This is about owning your own life and feeling like you're in control," Lee Young, president of the Lewiston-based agency, said. "It's about feeling good enough about yourself and safe enough."
It also marks a return to familiar ground at the YWCA.
For more than 20 years, the agency had a teen program. The YWCA's revenue began its decline in the late 1990s, and the program was dropped when the state and federal funds ended.
With the YWCA now on firmer fiscal ground, the time seemed right to again serve young women.
The agency has been working with students from Bates College's Harward Center for Community Partnerships. Students have helped shape curricula and will be working with the teen girls. Kathy Durgin-Leighton, YWCA executive director, said she hopes most other expenses will be paid for with grants.
And the agency is careful not to reach further than it can afford. The first groups will likely have about a dozen girls.
"We want to start off slow," Durgin-Leighton said. "It's about quality versus quantity."
That hasn't stopped the YWCA from making long-term plans.
"These are three programs we are starting as part of this larger initiative. But there will be more," Durgin-Leighton said. Next spring, she hopes to start a running program. "We've already talked to someone who is going to do, perhaps, karate."
A launch is planned for Oct. 29 with a big-time guest speaker, Allison Melangton, an Auburn native who ran this year's Super Bowl host committee in Indianapolis. This summer, she served as the associate producer for NBC's gymnastics broadcast at the Olympics in London.
Young and Durgin-Leighton hope the girls will ask questions and see a bit of themselves in this woman who came from the same community they do.
"She's got a wonderful personality," said Young, who has known Melangton since she was a little girl. "She's not uptight. She's approachable."
Girls who want to meet her for a chat, will have the opportunity, she said.
Young hopes all the new program's speakers will inspire girls.
"How did they do it? What did they come from? Did they have special advantages that allowed them to be this good?" Young said. All are questions the girls need to ask.
"We have forgotten to highlight those individuals who have done a lot with their lives," she said.