Be the Change: Kate O’Rorke Helps North State Girls Become “Strong, Smart, And Bold” With Girls Inc.

With a background in finance and real estate, Kate O’Rorke had never worked for a nonprofit before, let alone led one. But when a board member of Girls Inc. of the Northern Sacramento Valley (NSV) recommended her for the executive director position of the affiliate, Kate felt compelled to apply. “I have met bright young women who gave up because they were discouraged from pursuing a better education. That struck a chord with me. I knew I wanted to do something.”

Across the United States and into Canada, Girls Inc. offers free afterschool programs that inspire and equip girls to grow into healthy, confident, educated and independent women, summarized by the phrase, “strong, smart, and bold.” The NSV affiliate serves girls ages 6 and older in Shasta, Tehama and surrounding counties. Kate calls Girls Inc. “prevention-based,” designed to “reach girls at an early age so they think toward the future and avoid risky behavior.”  Prevention methods include studying self-defense, learning about the negative consequences of drug and alcohol abuse, and understanding media portrayals of the female body versus realistic health and fitness goals. 

“We seek to serve all girls,” explains Kate, “both the underserved girls with difficult home lives and the girls who seem to have ‘all’ the resources. They all face challenges.” Kimberly Ross, a current board member and former board president, affirms the “unique challenges facing girls today. All girls can use help protecting themselves online, recognizing unsafe relationships, standing up to bullying and realizing their leadership power.” Kimberly adds, “Kate is fantastic at educating our community about local girls’ needs and linking them with the Girls Inc. programs and educators that best serve them.” 

Girls Inc. encourages girls to pursue higher education, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Girls learn about potential career options from guest speakers and how to set measurable goals toward those careers. They learn how to search for financial aid and even practice interview dress and dialogue. Training also includes making budgets, opening checking and savings accounts and handling money wisely. “We tailor these programs to each age group with hands-on activities, arts and crafts to make learning these important life skills fun,” Kate says.

When Kate first became executive director, the NSV affiliate served about 130-150 girls per year. Since her start in March 2015, Kate has led her small but mighty team to double outreach, bringing Girls Inc. to more than 400 girls in multiple schools throughout Shasta and Tehama Counties. Kate describes the board as “committed, hardworking and supportive individuals who can work through anything.” They have even helped Kate work through challenges of the position while putting her talents and passions to use. Kate admits, “I’m not an extrovert. Public speaking did not come naturally to me. But when you’re doing something you believe in, especially with a supportive team, it becomes more natural.”    

Kimberly describes Kate as “our own Wonder Woman,” and a “dedicated advocate of girls.” Current Board President Mandy Trusas says she witnesses Kate “going above and beyond with every task set in front of her.” Kate also receives support from her husband, Kevin, who “encourages me in everything and helps make it work for our family.” Their daughters, Mattie (9) and Shaun (6), love accompanying Kate to Girls Inc. events. Kate has plans to offer a course at Boulder Creek Elementary this fall, where Mattie will participate officially for the first time.

Before finding Girls Inc., Kate had looked in vain for opportunities geared specifically for girls. “I think it is important to seek out organizations that support what is meaningful to you and put your positive energy there.” In her case, Kate put her positive energy into teaching cycling at the YMCA, where she met people who connected her with Girls Inc. “Sometimes it comes naturally, and you’ll be approached for a great opportunity. But be proactive. Get out there and try.” 

The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature community members from the North State who are actively making a difference in community life. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to pn@northstateparent.com.

Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

Comments

  1. Fred R Schneider says:

    Great article. Of course I am very prejudice because this lovely lady is my daughter and I loved being a small part of her life and watching her grow to the absolute beauty she is today!!:)
    She was great in school and athletics and a very very competitive woman- just ask her great husband Kevin or her two beautiful daughters (our lovely and vivacious granddaughters). We are so blessed to have the O’Rorke Family in our lives and I know Katie has been doing a wonderful job in ALL that she takes on because that is who she is!!! Semper Fi.

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