In a year filled with unpredictable twists and turns, 2021 at Girls Garage managed to be incredible! Our girls and gender-expansive youth built beautiful projects for our communities, including a greenhouse, 2×4 benches, a stage, and library furniture. They illustrated cookbooks with family recipes, designed protest flags, and created our first-ever Girls Garage calendar. And that’s just the beginning!

Without further ado, the top 21 moments of 2021:

  1. In the spring, beloved instructor Augusta Sitney joined the Girls Garage staff full-time as our first ever Shop Manager! It’s been absolutely amazing to have her positive energy, building expertise, and excellent humor in the work space.
    Augusta Sitney
  2. Emily presented at the TED Women conference! Picture this: Emily’s on-stage with her signature side braid, Dovetail Workwear coveralls, and a Girls Garage chop saw. While she’s giving an eloquent and impassioned speech to hundreds of people about the power of building, she’s also…building a toolbox! The crowd went absolutely wild. The talk will be released in late January—stay tuned! (photo credit: Gilberto Tadday/TED)
    Emily Pilloton-Lam at the TED Women
  3. We worked on 2 Yosemite construction projects this year! In the spring, our Advanced/Design Build students rebuilt hundreds of feet of timber fencing for the Wawona’s Visitor Center.
    Girls Garage in Yosemite

    In the fall, instructors Emily, Augusta, and Allison trekked out to Glacier Point to repair a 12’x12’ hole in a ranger’s cabin.

    Girls Garage Staff repairs a roof in Yosemite
  4. We added an additional after-school class this fall: Construction + Community. The class was a mixture of familiar and new faces, but they all quickly bonded. After learning basic carpentry and woodworking skills, our intrepid crew built a huge farm stand for Urban Tilth, a food justice organization in North Richmond.
    Construction + Community
  5. We distributed 93 fully-stocked toolboxes to our teen girls and gender-expansive youth! Emily Pilloton-Lam held weekend workshops to teach new students about how to safely use the tools. We’ll distribute the remaining 7 in 2021!
  6. We established new partnerships with community non-profits. Our incredible students constructed a full-scale greenhouse and work tables for the youth gardening organization, Growing Leaders; built distance learning desks, library furniture, and designed garden murals for a nearby transitional housing residence, BOSS (Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency); and built a stage for Oakland-based youth writing and publishing organization, Chapter510. We hope to deepen our partnerships with these incredible non-profits through future construction and design projects in the upcoming years!
  7. Vaccinations for all! In late February, our entire staff got fully vaccinated. It was an exciting time for us all, as it provided greater protection (and peace of mind) for the health of our team and our students. Come the end of November, we all got our booster shot too!
    Girls Garage staff gets vaccinated
  8. Our incredible carpentry and woodworking instructor Allison Oropallo is now a proud mother to beautiful twins, Mazlo and Nosh! She and her wife Gretchen (and their two silly dogs) couldn’t be more excited to welcome their daughters into the family. As for the staff of Girls Garage, we’re counting down the days until Mazlo and Nosh are in our program, wielding the chopsaw like pros!
    Allison Oropallo
  9. In the fall, our Founder and Executive Director Emily Pilloton-Lam was invited to join a Design/Build Bluff to help build a single-family home on Navajo Nation land in Utah. DesignBuildBluff is led by Hiroko and Atsushi Yamamoto, faculty at University of Utah, and each year a group of architecture grad students design and build a structure on and for the surrounding indigenous communities. Emily was honored and inspired to join the construction process and to learn (and build) alongside students and faculty alike.
    Emily Pilloton-Lam joins Design/Build Bluff in Utah
  10. Girls Garage was featured in CNN Represented, a show dedicated to organizations working to close the gender gap in STEAM industries. The camera crew visited the workplace in the summer during Builder Bootcamp and interviewed Emily and our fearless students. We were honored to share our work on the national stage!
  11. Emily Pilloton-Lam and Allison Oropallo took Zoom by storm with “Tool Talk”! From explaining how to patch a wall to the differences in lumber, they answered audience questions with grace, aplomb, and humor. Plus, Bethany illustrated fun graphics to go along with the event!
    Tool Talk with Emily and Allison
  12. The Girls Garage garage sale was a whopping success! By opening time, the line was almost around the block. It was lovely to meet and greet members of our community as they shopped for excellent deals on power tools, hand tools, and Girls Garage merchandise.
    Girls Garage garage sale!
  13. We were featured in KQED’s “Local-ish”! Oakland-based journalist Penndarvis Harshaw visited the workspace during Young Women’s Design and Building Institute to see what our work at Girls Garage is really all about. You can listen to the episode here!
    Library furniture built by teens at Girls Garage
  14. Our teens built 23 benches for local organizations serving our unhoused neighbors: Youth Spirit Artworks’ Tiny House Village and Homebase in East Oakland, as well as People’s Park in Berkeley. The benches are bright, beautiful, and sturdy, and we’re happy (and proud) that they’re being put to such good use in our communities.
    Benches at Tiny Home Empowerment Village Youth Spirit Artworks
  15. Side tables, plant stands, sweatpants, OH MY! Our 2021 specialty shop had something for everybody. Plus, Augusta made her HGTV debut with an explainer video on hand fabricating the hairpin leg side tables, which is a must-see…
    Specialty Shop 2021
  16. In response to the violent and hateful imagery of the January 6th insurrection, our Protest + Print students designed and curated their own protest fabric flags. The fearless flags were then hung up for display at West Oakland BART station for Betti Ono’s #NotOneMoreGirl campaign to address sexual harassment and violence on public transit. Later, the flags were displayed at Renegade Running in downtown Oakland.
    Protest + Print girls hold their final flags
  17. In 2021, we had 403 donors! We’re so grateful for the continued support of individual donors, foundations, and corporations.
  18. It was a year of incredible interns! Charlene, Aiko, Eliana, and Keiani supported our after-school and summer programs, ducking into administrative duties from time to time. Their work was invaluable to the staff, and we’re so grateful to have worked alongside them!
    Interns 2021
  19. This past fall, Communications Manager Bethany Kaylor offered free college essay editing appointments, and our seniors eagerly accepted the offer. Through in-person and Zoom meetings, Bethany helped our teens brainstorm, draft, and finesse their applications for schools across the country.
    Bethany Kaylor Communications Manager
  20. In Builder Bootcamp, our students collaborated on the Girls Garage cookbook zine project. Spanning three volumes, the cookbook is a reflection and result of the conversations about our families’ stories and traditions, as well as race, class, and the history of mutual aid in the Bay Area.
    Girls Garage Illustrated Cookbook Zines
  21. We bid farewell to the incredibly courageous graduating class of 2021! This school year was far from easy, but these students mustered the fortitude and grace to make it through. We’re excited for their individual journeys, and we hope they come back to visit!

Oof, a lot happened this past year, eh? Cheers to 2021, and we can’t wait for 2022!