Trackside Teen Center is offering a 10-week program for girls in grades 6-8 that focuses on leadership and empowerment. The program, LiveGirl Talk, is being offered free of charge and is limited to 15 participants. It will be held Wednesdays at 4-5:15 p.m. beginning Sept. 27.

The program is being offered by LiveGirl, a New Canaan-based nonprofit organization that equips girls with the necessary leadership skills to thrive, and teaches them how to be leaders, strengthening social emotional intelligence and self-esteem.

LiveGirl was started by Sheri West a former officer at General Electric who worked in corporate finance for 16 years. Having had very positive experiences with women mentoring programs at that company, West wanted to make sure young girls were being encouraged in the same way.

“That was when I learned the value of positive role model and mentoring. I founded LiveGirl to pay it forward to the next generation of female leaders. Now more than ever we need to empower our girls and prepare them to be leaders. We don’t have enough women in leadership,” she says. “We need to work harder to prepare them.”

West points to national stats to illustrate her point. Women make up only 20% of government leaders, 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs.  Research also shows that 7-in-10 girls believe they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, and that only4% of Connecticut teen girls report talking about issues with a teacher, adult or school counselor when feeling sad or anxious.

LiveGirl offers programs like the one she’s bringing to Wilton across Fairfield County. There are both groups that meet regularly after school for 10 weeks, like the one at Trackside, as well as one-time speakers. By making the programs free, is able to open up participation to girls in diverse communities.

“That’s what sets us apart, that we are working hard to bring communities together across Fairfield County. We might get a brilliant female CEO from Greenwich to speak with girls from all over Fairfield County–Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Wilton, Bridgeport–it’s magic that these girls come together and realize they have much more in common than not. These girls come together and are surrounded by positivity, they’re supporting each other and it really is a very powerful confidence booster,” West says.

The 10-week curriculum is focused on core tenets of “Be yourself. Be brave. Be kind. Be empowered.”

“It really is creating a ‘brave space’ for girls, facilitated by a teacher where they can come together, support one another and talk about things they are navigating in middle school. It’s a tough time for everyone, but especially girls. They’re trying to figure it out. At a time when they should be facing a world where they’re comfortable taking risks, stumbling and moving on, they’re facing all these adolescent pressures in a very unforgiving social culture that magnifies all their mistakes,” West says, pointing to social media as a primary factor.

“How to navigate social media with confidence” is one of the main topics covered in the program. One of the core beliefs we use a lot is, ‘A million “likes” will never be enough if you don’t like yourself.’ It gets back to working on building social emotional intelligence and self-esteem, and embracing your true self, and loving yourself and taking care of yourself–that’s what we talk about in LiveGirl.”

Find out more and register online through LiveGirl’s website.