Allen Witten

 "Girl Rising has motivated me to make education more relevant and provide ways for students to connect with others while taking actions in making our world a better place."

  • School: Sunburst Youth Academy (County Program: military-style school for at-risk students)

  • Grade: 10th-12th

  • Subjects: Social Science

  • Number of Students: 100

What was your goal in bringing Girl Rising into your classroom?

The mission of the Sunburst Youth Academy is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16-18 year old high school dropouts, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens. The Academy is a 5 1/2 month long residential “military style” academy structured to promote an academic environment where students will earn 65 High School credits, develop leadership, job skills, and academic skills, while improving self esteem, pride, and confidence. 

My goal in bringing Girl Rising into the classroom is to allow students opportunities to better understand the challenges girls in the developing world face in receiving a quality education and to examine actions we all can take to improve educational opportunities for all.

How do you use and teach Girl Rising?

Our students connect with other students in classrooms around the world through the iEARN Girl Rising project. The iEARN Girl Rising project encourages students to watch the Girl Rising film and share ideas in their classroom about what they can do to ensure that all girls and boys in the world have the right to a quality education. Participants can also arrange Skype video conferences and share their own learnings and to learn with each other. To learn more about the iEARN Girl Rising project click here

Students at Sunburst Youth Academy have participated in the iEARN Girl Rising project alongside students from Japan (including with students in Mari Sekine's class, another GR educator), Israel, Morocco, Uganda, Georgia, the Palestinian Territories, and India. Students from the different countries have watched a chapter or two of the Girl Rising film each week and have shared their thoughts in the iEARN Girl Rising forum. After watching the selected chapter, students from the various countries connect on the iEARN student forum to discuss their thoughts. Students are encouraged to interact by asking each other questions and suggest possible actions and small steps we can take to be a part of finding solutions to ensure the UN Sustainable Development Goal #4 - Quality Education For All.

In the past, students shared and presented their ideas to each other through FlipGrid videos. Using the password Globaled, you can take a look here at the FlipGrid videos that students created in this most recent collaboration. The FlipGrid videos can be found here

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Which Girl Rising materials did you use?


What is your timeline for teaching Girl Rising?

I have integrated Girl Rising for the past six semesters. At Sunburst Youth Academy, students are with us for five months. We generally begin the collaborative Girl Rising unit in late April and conclude in late May. In the fall, with a new group of students, we generally begin in late October and conclude in November.

Did you use any additional resources?

I have mainly used the Girl Rising curriculum resources. Our students do watch CNN Student News every day in class, and when a news story connects with issues that are embedded throughout the Girl Rising film, we often engage in class discussions after the news story.

Was there a community action component included as part of your Girl Rising unit?

For our culminating action piece, students at Sunburst Youth Academy engage in a project connected with Kiva is an international nonprofit which allows people to lend money via the internet to low-income entrepreneurs and students in over 80 countries. Kiva's mission is "to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.”

Leveraging knowledge gained through the Girl Rising project, Sunburst students work collaboratively in groups to select a female who has applied for a loan through Kiva. Students then create presentations that highlight the applicants name, photo, amount of the loan requested, what the loan would be used for, information about the applicant’s country of residence, and more.  

Recently, On May 21, 2019,  students presented their work to over twenty guest dignitaries. Guests in attendance included Orange County Department of Education Chief Academic Officer - Jeff Hittenberger, Director of Sunburst Youth Academy - Colonel Denise Varner, and other dignitaries.

As students presented, guest dignitaries evaluated each student project. With many thanks to gracious donors, the four student groups with the highest overall evaluation scores were each awarded a $250 credit to lend to the female loan applicant of their choice.  Eight other group finalists were also awarded $100 to lend to a Kiva loan applicant.  To date, Sunburst students have loaned over $3,600 through

As this program continues to gain support, we plan to hold the event bi-annually, with the next event scheduled for November, 2019.

The most recent student event was featured in the New York Times:  (Scroll down to second article).

View photos from the student presentations below. 



What has been the impact of Girl Rising on your students? 

Through collaboration with the Girl Rising project with students in India, Japan, Morocco, Uganda, Georgia, and Israel, my students have received the gift of having their worlds expanded exponentially. Sharing perspectives and ideas after watching each chapter of the film, students have been able to work together on an international level to discuss actions we all can take to improve conditions for girls around the world and quality education for all. 

Sara HubbardComment