March 11, 1997
Smith Receives Metropolitan Life Foundation Grant for Health
Smith College has received $110,000 from the Metropolitan
Life Foundation to support the creation and dissemination of
a pioneering and comprehensive health curriculum for young women.
In partnership with the YWCA of Western Massachusetts and
with the involvement of Smith faculty members and undergraduates
as well as high school students from around the country, the
project will examine issues of importance to the health and wellness
of adolescent females and create a resource manual on young women's
health for use in both school and community settings.
"The distinctive aspect of this curriculum will be that
it focuses on a holistic and comprehensive approach to girls'
health rather than on sexual activity and drug use," observes
Dr. Leslie Jaffe, director of health services at Smith College.
Smith, which has been a women's college since its founding
in 1871, and the YWCA, which has been programming for women of
all ages for nearly 130 years, "are uniquely qualified to
undertake this project," says Barbara Brehm-Curtis of the
Smith department of exercise and sport studies, who will be one
of the principal authors of the health curriculum. Faculty members
and administrators from the college and the YWCA of Western Massachusetts
bring a broad range of medical and educational expertise to the
enterprise, Brehm-Curtis points out.
The other co-authors of the health curriculum will be Jaffe,
whose specialty is adolescent medicine and who team-teaches with
Brehm-Curtis Smith's course on "Women's Medical Issues,"
and Kerry Homstead, director of social services for the YWCA
of Western Massachusetts, whose expertise is in adolescent health
issues and youth programming.
As part of the project, these specialists in adolescent health
will work with a highly diverse group of young women to create
a holistic curriculum integrating many aspects of teens' health
and wellness. "The direct involvement of teenagers in the
creation of the resource manual will result in the incorporation
of authentic adolescent voices and experiences," says Gail
Scordilis, director of the Smith Summer Science Program and the
senior Smith administrator overseeing the project.
Smith's Summer Science Program, which brings together 75 young
women from all over the world to participate in research projects
with members of the Smith faculty, will serve, along with the
YWCA of Western Massachusetts, as research and test site for
the project's curriculum and resource manual.
In addition, the Metropolitan Life Foundation grant provides
money both for scholarships for students attending the Summer
Science Program and for Smith undergraduates who will serve internships
with the project and are expected to play a crucial role in bridging
communication between project leaders and populations of younger
"This project fills a major gap by focusing a health
curriculum specifically on the needs and concerns of young women,"
says Sibyl Jacobson, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Life
Foundation. "The likelihood that this program will help
them foster a life-long sense of responsibility for their own
health and well-being is very exciting."
Smith and the YWCA launched the project last summer with a
$66,150 grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Metropolitan
Life Foundation grant will provide funds for the next steps:
collaboration with teenage girls; research; publication, field-testing
and revision of the resource manual and curriculum guide as well
as their dissemination through workshops and at regional and
national medical and health education conferences.
The Metropolitan Life Foundation was founded by Metropolitan
Life Insurance Company in 1976 and has contributed more than
$125 million to support health, education, civic and cultural
programs throughout the United States.