Ayer program gets girls EmPOWEREDed!

AYER — Children in rural communities do not have access to services that urban kids take for granted. There is no Boys and Girl Club. There is no YMCA.  Now there is EmPOWER ME! for local girls. Right now the program is for grade 5, but the founder plans to extend it into more grade levels. Kids need the support. Charisse Murphy said she was surprised to learn that almost half the students at Paige Hilltop Elementary School in Ayer qualified for free or reduced lunch, indicating that a substantial number of families needed some kind of financial assistance. The former program director at YOU, Inc., a social-services agency, worked with troubled girls across the state. “I’m going to do something for my own community,” the Ayer resident said. “These kids still deserve and sometime need services.” The time was right. Currently finishing a master’s degree, she now works as a paraprofessional in the Ayer Shirley regional district. Her children are in school. She developed a curriculum to empower girls: to reduce risk behaviors, strengthen leadership skills, improve self-esteem, embrace diversity and develop other social-emotional skills. The first two session in Ayer were a success. Murphy met with the girls weekly for seven weeks. Instead of sitting at desks, they formed a circle. “They really embraced the circle,” Murphy said.

“It’s all about empowering young girls to become our future leaders,” said Superintendent Mary Malone. The program helps girls learn out to take risks, develop leadership skills especially for sectors dominated by males and reach beyond what they think they can do. Now it is time to grow the program. Murphy met with other women to discuss ideas for planning and for attracting volunteers. “I’d like to keep it free,” she said. EmPOWER ME! will hold its first fundraiser on Oct. 8 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Chip Shots, 245 Ayer Road, Littleton. Raffle prizes include a spa certificate, movie passes, Boston Red Sox items and more.

For more information contact Murphy at

Nashoba Publishing – By Anne O’Connor
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.
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