Bright News

Eight Young Women to Graduate from Bright Futures for Youth’s Friendship Club Program

This story, submitted by Bright Futures for Youth, first appeared in The Union on May 10, 2024.

Bright Futures for Youth’s The Friendship Club will celebrate eight young women (left to right) Kiersten, Laney, Tracy, Makenna, Ivie, Haley, Julianna and Adriana, who are graduating from the program during a Graduation Gala on May 15 at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley. The young women, who are graduating from local high schools, have developed friendships, learned new skills and much more from the after-school program. 

Organization helps teens and young women connect, develop new skills and embrace new opportunities.

Teens face numerous challenges, from hard-to-meet expectations at school to peer pressure, bullying and a ton of stress.

But eight young women – each with their own experiences and stories to share – cleared those hurdles and many more through hard work, working with each other and the help of Bright Futures for Youth’s Friendship Club program.

The young women will graduate from the program during The Friendship Club’s 23rd annual Graduation Gala 6 p.m. May 15 at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.

Bright Futures for Youth will also detail the launch of the Looking to the Future Fund that will help the organization with short- and long-term planning and efforts to expand programs and meet its mission. The nonprofit serves several hundred young people every month, including several dozen girls in The Friendship Club.

“These young women have overcome so many extraordinary issues, in addition to the already often-overwhelming experience of just being a teen, from the emotional challenges to the physical changes,” said Jennifer Singer, Executive Director of Bright Futures for Youth and cofounder of The Friendship Club. “Each one of these young women is focused on her future and ready for whatever is next.”

Whether the soon-to-be high school grads attend college, enroll in career technical education/trade school or enter the workforce, they are prepared for the road ahead, thanks in part to The Friendship Club.

The Friendship Club offers an after-school program, life-skills classes, group meetings and smaller get-togethers, and college tours and summer camps. The Friendship Club also provides a range of safety-net services, including serving healthy meals every weekday, access to health care and counseling, and even clothing and housing, if needed.

The Friendship Club also helps young women apply for college and financial assistance, and offers its own scholarships for graduates enrolled in college or vocational training programs. The Friendship Club scholarships are possible thanks to a generous investment by David and Barba Nurse to an endowment in the memory of their mothers, and they encourage others to contribute and honor important women in their own lives.

“The Friendship Club is about giving young women the confidence, life-changing experiences and the necessary skills to succeed – and even thrive – as adults,” said Greg Bulanti, President of the Bright Futures for Youth Board. “The program is also about connections, developing lifelong friendships and building a strong foundation for a lifetime of success.”

The Friendship Club has been empowering and educating girls and young women since 1995, including about 80 during the current school year. The program helps sixth- through 12th-grade girls and young women in Nevada County.

Now, much has changed since Mary Collier founded the organization – long before smartphones and social media – but the commitment to connecting girls with each other, staff and volunteer mentors, and focusing on their lifelong success remains the same.

“Friendship Club graduates have accomplished so much more than just completing high school and our program,” Singer said. “They have learned the importance of community, friendship and working together – and their own self-worth and value.”

The 2024 Friendship Club graduating class are:

  • Adriana: The Bear River High School graduate joined The Friendship Club as a freshman and has been active in the program the past four years. She has held a job since she was 15. Adriana, who has an interest in cosmetology and learning acrylic and dip powder nails, is considering enrolling at Butte College or the Paul Mitchell Beauty School.
  • Haley: She joined the club in sixth grade and has been an active member over the years, including volunteering for customer appreciation day, the leadership spaghetti dinner and the annual Wreaths Across America. She is currently attending Sierra College and plans to transfer to the University of California, Davis. She would like to become an ultrasound technician.
  • Ivie: A six-year member of The Friendship Club, Ivie has been a leader of the Peer Helper program, educating younger members about health and wellness, and has served as a camp counselor. She also enjoys four-wheeling, work and being on the swim team, where she has earned numerous silver and bronze awards.
  • Julianna: After moving across the country, Julianna joined The Friendship Club and later became a Peer Helper, with a focus on suicide prevention, health education, peer mediation and peer counseling. Julianna, who is an artist and enjoys drawing and listening to music, plans to continue her education at Sierra College and become a tattoo artist.
  • Kiersten: She has brought much energy and endless enthusiasm to The Friendship Club. She is committed to making others comfortable, and was part of the GSA Club at Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning that helps trans non-binary students. Kiersten enjoys writing, pets, astrology, numerology and Asian culture. She plans to attend Sierra College and transfer to the University of California, Davis, where she would like to study to become a veterinarian.
  • Laney: The seven-year member of The Friendship Club has embraced numerous activities, including volunteering at the annual banquet for veterans and the Ice Cream Social. She has dedicated more than 50 hours to the Peer Helper program, assisting with the after-school program and summer camps. She plans to pursue a degree in Pediatric Speech Pathology at Southern Oregon University.
  • Makenna: She joined when she was in sixth grade, and has been making an impact over the years. Most notably, Makenna is part of the Peer Helper program, assisting and counseling teens on numerous subjects. Makenna, who currently works at Target, plans to attend Sierra College and pursue a career in nursing or as an ultrasound technician.
  • Tracy: She joined The Friendship Club at the start of seventh grade, and has been an active member since, including perfect attendance with the after-school meetings. Her interests include drawing, animation, writing, reading and painting. She plans to attend Sierra College and transfer to Rhode Island School of Design to pursue a degree in Animation/Video Game Design.