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  • $50,000
  • Funded
  • Chicago, IL



GirlForward is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating and enhancing opportunities for girls who have been displaced globally by violence or persecution. GirlForward’s programs focus on mentorship and educational support, and have shown impressive outcomes. In 2022, 100 percent of GirlForward participants graduated from high school and 95 percent went on to attend college, with 90 percent receiving some form of scholarship. GirlForward also offers a safe space center, GirlForward HQ, where girls are able to explore their identities, access resources, and gain support in community with other girls who share their unique experiences. In Chicago, GirlForward’s core programs serve girls in the Rogers Park, West Ridge, Albany Park, and Uptown neighborhoods, but its virtual tutoring and mentoring programs are offered city-wide. 

GirlForward serves girls from more than 30 home countries, including Venezuela, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Having left their home countries due to war and violence, many GirlForward girls have experienced trauma and disruptions to their education. On average, they have only had two years of schooling before arriving in Chicago, where they are then placed in school based on their age. This disconnect creates many challenges and barriers to academic success. GirlForward aims to address the gap by offering support that goes beyond a traditional school curriculum. 

The Girls Opportunity Alliance Fund will support GirlForward’s core education and mentorship program. 250 refugee girls will be paired with a mentor who will support them in exploring and integrating into their new home in Chicago. Mentors will use GirlForward’s 4W curriculum—Wisdom, Wellness, Wallet, and World—to support girls in each of these four areas. Together, girls and their mentors will engage in activities such as taking yoga classes, reading books, setting goals, budgeting, and exploring the local community. Additionally, mentee pairs will come together quarterly for group events with the GirlForward community as a whole. 

The educational program will offer year-round academic support and focuses on preparing refugee girls for the challenges of high school at the critical moment following their arrival to a new community. During the school year, girls will receive one-on-one tutoring to work through academic challenges. Tutors will help with homework, college applications, federal student aid applications, job applications, and interpreting essential documents. GirlForward will also offer English language learning opportunities throughout the year, including a camp during the summer. The camp will offer a space for girls to continue their language learning while exploring the ideas of identity, community, and power. 

Through these programs, GirlForward hopes to create a community that enables program participants to explore the joys of girlhood while growing and learning with others who have faced similar challenges. To learn more about GirlForward, please visit the organization’s website and social media pages: 

See more projects: North America, Education, Leadership & Life Skills Development, Social Justice & Equity