Lower Eastside Girls Club: File under awesome
Meet Lyn Pentecost, executive director and cofounder of this badass institution. She says things like, "Hell with them, we'll build our own girls' club"—then makes good on it. Straight up awesome.
Fri Nov 29 2013
Photo: Caroline Voagen Nelson
So tell us about your organization. Well, it’s a place where young girls from the neighborhood can come after school and on weekends to be in an enriched learning environment. We teach them things like photography, cooking, how to run a business… Our girls may live in the projects and may be low income, but the point is, if they come here, they get another perspective on what their capacity is.
How’d this all start? It was nearly 20 years ago, and I got invited to a meeting of women on the Lower East Side. At the time, there were only boys’ clubs around here, so the topic was: It’s almost the 21st century, and there are only boys’ clubs, and what are we going to do about it? Being the smarty-pants that I am, I said, “Well, why don’t we just go talk to the boys’ club and offer to do free programming there? Because I’m sure they’ll realize the error of their ways.” Ha! They did not. So we thought, Hell with them, we’ll build our own girls’ club! And we did. We started in a super-small space on 1st Street, but then bought six city-owned lots and built a new center on Avenue D, which is where we are now.
You’ve put a planetarium in your new building. What’s your reasoning there? We’re pretty big tree huggers around here. The lowest unemployment rate for college grads right now is women in sciences, so our girls really need to know this stuff. That way, they’re guaranteed work. They can write their own tickets. But I realized you can’t just teach earth science—you have to teach sky science, too. They’re all connected. Plus, you need a sense of wonder. I wanted to put something in that was spiritual but not religious.
So how would you describe the overall spirit of the girls’ club? I think the outside of our building says it all: Reach for the stars. We’re hitting people over the head with that message.
Are they getting it? Definitely. In fact, we have four young women working here full-time now who grew up coming here. They came from really tough backgrounds and managed to get through high school and college with the help of the Girls Club—they did it! Very inspiring.
VISIT THE LOWER EASTSIDE GIRLS CLUB for their Holiday Craft Fair (402 E 8th St between Aves C and D; Dec 7 11am–6:30pm). Shop for fair-trade and girl-made goods, plus see their new digs. Find out more at girlsclub.org.
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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)