Girls Inc. facilitator shares tips on motherhood during pandemic
Elisa, 4, was very excited to start preschool in 2020.
That is, until the pandemic hit.
When Elisa was faced with starting her first year of education on a screen, Claudia Vargas knew her daughter needed a support system.
“I had to tell her, ‘You can’t go to school yet, but there’s going to be a computer so you’re going to see your friends and your teacher,’” Ms. Vargas told the News-Press. “It was kind of hard for her to understand.”
However, through all the twists and turns of the pandemic, Ms. Vargas stayed by her daughter’s side to help her navigate the new, isolated world, all the while serving other local youth as a teen facilitator at Girls Inc. of Carpinteria. In that role, Ms. Vargas helps run programming for teenage girls, including health and sexuality, STEM, college-bound programs and more.
When Girls Inc. closed its campus last year, she and other staff members helped lead virtual programming and provide emotional support and check-ins for the girls, along with holding workshops in stress management, self-care, remote learning and more.
“I was always interested in just working with girls in general because I have a daughter and it would help me prepare for having a daughter and the different environment,” Ms. Vargas said. “I teach them how to be independent, trust their values, be creative in every way and never give up.”
Something the mother noticed about teenage girls during the pandemic was the increasing difficulty for many of them to open up about their struggles as they lacked the ability to be around their best friends.
“I feel like girls now — they get judged a lot, mostly physically, but there’s a lot of things,” Ms. Vargas said. “Especially with the pandemic, they lost contact with their friends and they couldn’t hang out. I think it really affected them. They wanted to be with friends and they couldn’t be.”
So, Ms. Vargas took on the role of mother to not only Elisa, but many other Carpinteria teens, and even took on the role of a friend for them too. She said that it’s important for young girls to be able to spend quality time with their mothers to build trust and allow them to open up, especially during the uncertainty of COVID-19.
“Be patient with them,” the mother advised. “Because it happened so fast and a lot of things got taken away from them. As a teen, it’s really hard to have someone to trust, and if they don’t have friends, it’s really nice to be there for our own kids to be patient with them, to open up with them and have communication with them.”
Other Girls Inc. volunteers sang praises of the busy mother in light of Mother’s Day, saying she turned around each day and inspired her own daughter to be strong, smart and bold, which is the mission of the organization.
“Claudia is a devoted leader — not only in her role as a mother, but also a key member of our staff at Girls Inc. of Carpinteria,” Jamie Collins, executive director of Girls Inc., told the News-Press. “Her commitment to the growth of our girls has never wavered, even throughout the challenging times of this past year while she was working to ensure her own daughter’s needs were being met amid remote learning in her first year at preschool. We’re so grateful to Claudia for helping us inspire all girls to be independent, step outside their comfort zones and use their voices to make positive change in the community.”
Girls Inc. aims to empower girls and women to achieve personal, social, political and economic success, providing long-lasting mentoring relationships, a pro-girl environment and research-based programming. Ms. Vargas joined two years ago.
Gloria Flores, the HR and operations director, told the News-Press that in those two years, Ms. Vargas became a “trusted mentor.”
“She cares about the teens the same way she cares about her own daughter,” Ms. Flores said of Ms. Vargas. “She worries about them getting enough to eat, their friendships, their home lives — all of the things a mom would worry about. She has managed to build strong relationships with one of the more challenging groups during a challenging time.”
Kenya Rodriguez, Girls Inc. program director, told the News-Press, “At Girls Inc., Claudia creates a warm, welcoming space for our girls. She is a patient listener who always asks the right questions to uncover what girls are really feeling.”
To learn more about Girls Inc. and how to get involved, visit girlsinc-carp.org.