Merck Foundation Grant Supports Young Women’s Leadership Project

Big Brothers Big Sisters Receives $25,000 Merck Foundation Grant to Support Young Women’s Leadership Project
HARRISONBURG, VA. —Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County has been awarded a $25,000 Neighbor of Choice grant through the Merck Foundation to help support youth facing adversity. The funds will support the development of a collaborative project between Big Brothers Big Sisters, Camp Horizons, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, and faculty at James Madison University (JMU) aimed at empowering at-risk middle school girls to develop self-confidence and become aware of their leadership skills and opportunities.
The project will enroll up to 40 at-risk seventh-grade girls at Skyline and Thomas Harrison Middle Schools identified by school personnel as showing the potential for leadership. The girls will be matched with a trained, adult mentor and participate in facilitated, weekly out-of-school learning opportunities. The curriculum will include activities focused on healthy behaviors and relationships, self-esteem and self-expression, career exploration and leadership. The project will culminate in a week-long summer camp at JMU.
“We are grateful to the Merck Foundation for their investment in the development of young women in our community,” said Sue Totty, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “With the assistance of our partners, we will provide the girls with a wide spectrum of opportunities and experiences to support them in making positive choices that will help them reach their full potential.”
The project seeks to address growing challenges faced by at-risk adolescent girls in the Harrisonburg community which include substance abuse, a high drop-out rate, and a teen pregnancy rate that is more than double the state average for girls ages 15-17. Big Brothers Big Sisters will employ its evidence-based, high-quality mentoring model to inform the development of the project and ensure positive outcomes for the young women enrolled.
As an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nation’s premiere donor-and-volunteer supported youth mentoring network, the local agency served 680 children in 2014 by matching them in professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring relationships with caring adults. Evaluation data shows that children enrolled in the local program consistently experience improvements in academic performance, avoidance of risky behaviors, and increased self-esteem.
About Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County is a youth-services organization that pairs adult mentors in professionally guided, one-to-one matches with children facing adversity. As an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, the organization holds itself accountable for children in the program to achieve positive, measurable outcomes through research-based methods. Among other improvements, local evaluation data shows that children served progress academically, avoid delinquency, and experience increased self-confidence. Founded locally in 1976 as an outreach of Trinity Presbyterian Church, the organization is the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters agency in the state of Virginia, serving 680 children 2014. For more information, please call 540.433.8886 or visit

About the Merck Foundation
The Merck Foundation is a United States-based private charitable foundation established in 1957 by Merck & Co., Inc., one of the world’s leading research-driven heath care companies. It is funded entirely by Merck and is the company’s chief source of funding support for qualified non-profit charitable organizations. Since its inception, the Merck Foundation has contributed more than $829 million to support initiatives that address important societal needs in a manner consistent with the company’s overall mission to help the world be well. To learn more about Merck’s corporate responsibility framework and initiatives, visit:

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