The Girls Give Back program educates teen girls on gender inequality, develops concrete leadership skills, and empowers young women to actively engage in the San Diego community through ongoing volunteer work and service learning projects.


Emma Glassman-Hughes, pictured above, an alumna of Jewish Family Service of San Diego’s “Girls Give Back” program, became involved at the age of 16 when a friend told her about the program. She attributes much of her success to her mentor, Jessica Nare, the former Director of Leadership Programs at JFSSD who created the program.  

Girls Give Back was like no other program Emma had ever experienced. Before joining, Emma would have never publicly identified herself as a feminist. It exposed her to the history and importance of the movement, including to feminist icons such as Susan B. Anthony and Betty Friedan.

According to Emma, if it was not for her time with Girls Give Back, where she eventually served as a mentor to younger students, she wouldn’t have had the chance to explore her political positions, or had the space to interact with, be challenged by, and learn from other Jewish girls her age. Emma attributes her current work—as the lead writer for a feminist (and successful) women’s health start-up in New York City—to her experience with GGB; she is simultaneously pursuing her college degree in Boston.  

 “This program not only empowers young girls to discover themselves politically and to develop themselves as speakers, creators, and thinkers; it makes the part of the women’s movement that is closely aligned with anti-poverty, racial justice, and political reform movements accessible and relevant for young Jewish girls–the majority of whom are coming from upper-middle class families.  

We were given the opportunity to convene downtown at a non-profit, short-term housing facility for homeless and at-risk youth, and to host an informational meeting about feminism with some of the kids of the shelter. It was the first time that I was forced to recognize that social perspectives are going to differ depending on social circumstances, and that a homeless girl of 16 might have a different opinion about feminism than her financially-stable counterparts. Instead of making it a teaching experience, we took the time to listen to our homeless peers’ grievances and hear their stories. This exchange enriched our activism exponentially, and it was an opportunity unique to the work done by GGB.


The work I did with San Diego’s homeless communities was some of the most meaningful hands-on work I have done, and GGB gave me a front-row seat to observe (as well as give me a shiny set of tools to facilitate) social change at its most inspiring!”