A place where respect, equality, opportunity, justice and peace prevail. An intimate look into Girls Inc of Sarasota.

“A place where respect, equality, opportunity, justice and peace prevail.” This is only a fraction of the oath the young girls at the Sarasota Girls Inc promised as Commissioner Suzanne Atwell swore in the young and newly appointed Dream Harbor commissioners. Dream Harbor is an entire “city” run by the girls and for the girls, within the walls of Girls Inc. We had the honor of witnessing the exciting She Votes swearing in ceremony for their Dream Harbor Government on November 12, 2014. There was such a sense of pride and honor in the air as one by one the new commissioners took the stage to give their acceptance speeches. 

She Votes is a curriculum that is part of the Dream Harbor Government where the girls learn about what it means to be a citizen, and a responsible citizen at that. They register to vote, have the ability to run for office and represent their peers as well as participate in an actual election. It was a very timely election this year because the girls were able to vote during the Super Tuesday elections.

Girls Inc hopes to teach young girls not to take their citizenship lightly. With the belief that once they understand a sense of the core values of the country, they will be able to understand the sociology of politics and actually have a desire to make their voices heard. A lot of people don’t understand that our country is run as a republic and not a democracy, or even what that looks like, and that our voice is actually quite powerful. “The curriculum of She Votes has to be my favorite program here at Girls Inc,” said Kay Mathers, the Director of Community Relations of the Sarasota Chapter.

Azariah Prince

“There are three ‘big buckets’ that we consistently teach our girls,” Kay continues, “The first one is life skills, where the girls are learning how to prepare themselves to be in professional work environments, as well as having the social skills to cope and manage with life’s challenges. In our newest program that we’ve launched within this last year, the High School Initiative, the girls are learning resume writing, how to interview for a job as well as meeting career professionals in fields they are interested in. We teach all the girls age appropriate levels of each of these things, as well. While the younger girls have the more entertaining activities the high school girls understand that the curriculum is more intentional. They know they are going on field trips to meet women in various career fields and that they have the opportunity to be a little more explorative in their questions. For example, when we take the girls to Mote Marine we are introducing them to careers in Marine Biology. They understand that we are intentionally introducing them to Marine Biologists and we want them to ask as many questions about what they would need to do to have a job at Mote Marine. The delivery of the curriculums is quite intentional.

Toni Pannell

The Second ‘bucket’ includes teaching the girls how to live healthy and active lifestyles. The little ones are learning about portion sizes on their plates while the older girls are learning self defense, as well as understanding that they are the only ones who are responsible for the well being of their bodies. This includes how they feed, take care of and even protect it from others.

Academic achievements are one of the most important ‘buckets’. Our goal is to give every girl the tools she needs to have an advantage and be able to get ahead in their academic life. We want them all to have the ability to transition into each grade at the appropriate levels as well as graduate from high school. So if she has to pass the common core testing in order to progress into the 4th grade, we want to make sure she is able to. We provide tutoring, homework assistance, computer skills and any of the other skill sets they may need in order to advance in academics.”

The High School Initiative is something Girls Inc is focusing on, in order to try and provide a way to measure each girls’ progression of success from 5 years old to 18. Another initiative that will begin in the next year will be training and preparing the girls to use technology and how to move forward with technology into the next decade. They are hoping to partner with the community to build a curriculum as well as transform the building into a technologically advanced facility. That means getting tablets into the hands of each girl and providing proper training in how to advance in the technological realm of society. “We need a village to help with that technology center here, so the girls can know how to move forward,” said Kay. “We like to also encourage people to come in for a tour to see our program in action. Mondays and Wednesdays at 4pm are the times we can schedule this to happen. If guests can come in and talk to the girls and hear what our organization means to them, they can see that these girls really are our future and are worth investing in.”

Gloria Macias

We were overjoyed to offer our most recently opened model home, The Avianna, as the first stop of the evening for the Building Her Future progressive dinner fundraiser that took place this past Saturday evening, November 15, 2014. We appreciate one of Girls Inc’s former board members, Candice McElyea of Three Six Oh PR, who understands the needs of the organization and her innovative idea to provide such a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together and support such a beautiful cause. This particular fundraiser has helped Girls Inc provide scholarships to girls who cannot afford to be in the program. As Kay explained, “50% of our girls are on some level of scholarship assistance. The fee is $150 per month, so this fundraiser has helped us to make sure no girl is ever turned away. The High school Initiative is also a beneficiary of the funds that were raised.” We would like to say thank you to the whole community for such a wonderful response. It brought new meaning to Girls Inc’s mission statement, “With you in her corner, she will succeed!”