Summer/Fall 2020 Newsletter


Read an Update from our Executive Director Here


When Dr. Monica Smiddy, a Girls Inc. of Lynn alumna and retired chief medical examiner at New York City’s Department of Public Health, attended this year’s Zoom Celebration Luncheon, she was inspired. Dr. Smiddy was so moved that she sprang into action developing a pre-college STEM program in forensic science comparable to summer programs offered by many elite colleges.

“I knew that the girls would be very interested,” said Dr. Smiddy, who was proved correct when 14 Girls Inc. girls signed up for the four-week course that met twice weekly via Zoom.

Smiddy teamed with Lynn resident Nicole Cusack, who recently received her master’s in molecular forensic biology, and the two gathered women in varied fields to cover topics such as crime and death scene investigations, DNA evidence, fingerprinting, toxicology, autopsies, and ballistics. Lectures, group and individual assignments, and other exercises often focused on human rights matters that are inherent in forensic science.

Hiba Bushra, a rising junior at Lynn English High School, was glad she “took a chance” and enrolled in the program, as it opened her eyes to networking and the many career pathways in the field of forensics. And Arlene Valerio, who is entering her junior year at Lynn Classical and has hopes of one day attending medical school, appreciated the course’s links to social justice issues. “It was really helpful,” said a grateful Arlene.

Thank you to Dr. Smiddy, Professor Cusack and their associates for inspiring the teens with the power and influence of science!


“Fabulous Fridays” typically mark a wind-down day at Girls Inc., but the Eureka! STEM program switched them up this summer by introducing program participants  to some of the region’s women leaders. The weekly offerings included:
Women in STEM with Nancy Wolk, from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory; Samantha Lozzi, audit manager at Deloitte; and Demi Fox, from the NOAA

  • Women in Design and Engineering featuring Virginia Bixby, graphic designer at Jackrabbit Design; Michelle Rothman, interior designer at Perkins & Will; and Ellen Sen and Amanda Marshall, from GE Aviation
  • Women in Nonprofit with Nicole Lawrence, founder of Ruth’s Way for Women; Sandy Gannon, founder of; and Elizabeth Hart, founder and CEO of Tailored for Success
  • Women in Medicine with Johanna O’Connor, MD, chair of anesthesiology at NSMC; and Penelope Herman, RN, labor and delivery nurse at MGH
  • Women in Finance presenting associates from JP Morgan
  • Women in Law and Justice featuring  Monica Smiddy, MD, forensic  pathologist; Lt. Kelly Tucker Aylward, Lynn Police Department’s Sexual Assault Unit; and Attorney Nicole Bluefort.

“We are so grateful that women leaders chose to spend their time teaching and inspiring girls at this unprecedented moment. It was a true gift that will leave an indelible imprint in the hearts and minds of the girls, said Deb Ansourlian, Girls Inc. of Boston and Lynn executive director.


Eureka will be running from July 6 to August 14 and is open to any girl entering grades 7-9 who is ready to make a commitment to try their best, learn new things, and make new friends! We will have all of our programs online and will be offering the following: STEM Discovery, Healthy Sexuality, Access Your Potential, Venture (Computer Science and Business), Book Club, Whole Body Health, Beach Sisters, Academic and Career Exploration, and special programming by our Teen Health Ambassadors and Part of the Solution Peer Leaders. And every Friday, we will have a panel of Women of the Week in addition to a virtual field trip! There is something for everyone at Eureka and we can’t wait to explore (virtually) with you this summer!


Our youngest girls have returned to 50 High Street, albeit wearing masks and keeping a distance of six feet! Here are the summer highlights:


Our literacy program is working toward meeting school standards and continuing to develop the girls’ love of learning. Daily Silent Sustained Reading has been a positive time for the girls as they devour new books they have had limited access to since schools and public libraries have been closed. Graphic novels have turned many of our girls into avid readers, as they serve as a bridge for tentative English Language Learners to progress to more traditional offerings. Our additional support and tutoring program is working with as many children as possible who have been identified as needing extra help in literacy fluency.


Stalwart supporters and volunteers from the assurance and tax firm led a six-week Zoom program to boost involvement and interest in STEM subjects.


What do Michelle Obama, Katherine Johnson, Amelia Earhart and Alica Keyes share in common? They are strong, smart, and bold women leaders who have made meaningful contributions to society! Theme days shed a spotlight on these pioneering  women and others.


While COVID-19 scaled back our ability to bring girls to museums, learning centers and other destinations, we brought the world in via Smart TVs. This summer, we “traveled” to Africa to learn about white lions, to Thailand to understand the culture, and to South America to learn about the importance of rainforests.


Identifying that review is key to the girls’ academic success, the staff has put extra focus on math: math facts, money, time, fractions, and geometry. A Math Olympics type of challenge is on tap to encourage review in a fun, effective way.


Upcycled art and projects are popping up daily. The girls’ creative sides are emerging as they have repurposed glass bottles into vases, created airplanes to  celebrate Amelia Earhart, and more.


Increasing the staff to girl ratio has enabled us to offer more support to the girls as they grapple with issues bubbling up these days, from coronavirus fears to social justice issues to missing families, teachers, and friends.


Our girls are on the move! Maintaining a six-foot distance, they are learning new dances and working out some of that energy.


With so many of our parents employed as essential workers, we are continuing to offer emotional support and resources to our families.


Do you have free time and a desire to help change a girl’s life? Contact Lena at


Mentors are matched with groups of four to plan activities that encourage a positive approach to academics and increase social competencies. Cooking, karaoke, board games—you name it—can all be activities in this once-weekly volunteer opportunity that runs October-June.


An important staple of the Girls Inc. experience is this program that helps high school juniors and seniors navigate the college and scholarship application process. Typically, two juniors are assigned to one volunteer, who guides them on college searches, the college timeline, brag sheets and other preparatory steps. Senior mentors work one-on-one with their charges and focus on completing applications, identifying scholarships, practicing interviewing skills, and preparing for campus life. The junior program runs November-May; the senior program, September-April.

As of this writing, mentoring programs will be running virtually. An update will be provided in December.


North Reading High School rising Junior Shivi Srikanth is passionate about engineering and wanted to share in its wonder, so she created Innov8, a peer-run program aimed at fostering enthusiasm in the subject in girls 11-14.

Shivi had already started developing her program for months when her mother was invited to participate in a panel discussion at Girls Inc. After hearing her mother’s impressions of the organization, Shivi pitched Innov8 to Girls Inc. staff  staffers  Lena Crowley, Melody Gregory and Allee DeFronzo. “They were super supportive and helped me adapt my program to fit the goals and structure of Eureka!,” says Shivi, who notes that students tend to learn better when they can relate to others who are like them.

With input from her high school engineering design teacher, Shivi created an online curriculum and worked with 40 girls over a six-week period. The girls spent the summer on building structures and learned to identify design principles in pop culture.

One avid Innov8 participant noted, “I liked everything about it, especially the spoon catapults we made! I enjoy group work, so this was a highlight!”