It may only be weeks since Girls Inc., a program aimed at empowering and helping girls reach their potential, officially joined in February with the SAFE Haven youth shelter at its Washington Avenue headquarters. But directors of both groups say it’s already proven to be the right move.
“We think that together we have more force and more strength,” said Girls Inc. Executive Director Jeanette Brown.
“We think it’s a great fit,” said SAFE Haven Executive Director Pamala Handrow. “We’re looking forward to finding new ways to serve more youth in our community.”
SAFE Haven, which provides shelter for runaway and abused children, had begun a small pilot program aimed at at-risk, middle school students and received a $15,000 grant in February. Now officials say that the merger with Girls Inc.’s already-established school programs will allow both of them to do even more together.
In operation in Racine for nine years, the local arm of the national Girls Inc. program provides a place for girls to feel comfortable, make friends and participate in educational programs aimed at increasing literacy, reading and math skills. Girls from first through 12th grades meet twice weekly in local elementary schools.
“These are the areas that unless they’re proficient at a young age, they’re not going to succeed,” said Brown. “Research says that the more reading and math basic skills they have, the more likely they’re going to get into traditional careers — math, science and medicine, those kinds of areas.”
The girls grow with the program, with most who joined in the first grade when the program began in Racine still attending in their sophomore year of high school. The goal is to be able to keep communicating with the girls through high school and even into college to help with the big transitions in their lives.
“They have a place of consistency,” said Brown. “We’re meeting twice a week and addressing the issues they have in getting acclimated. As our girls get out and graduate from high school, we want them to be college-ready. Our intent is to follow them into higher education.”
Middle school, especially, can be a trying time for girls. “It can be a difficult transition for some children to go from elementary to middle school,” said Handrow. “That transition to high school is also when most fall off.”
By confronting subtle societal messages about girls’ value and potential, Girls Inc. of Racine helps girls lead successful, independent and fulfilling lives, Brown said. Girls Inc. educates and inspires girls to exercise their rights, realize their potential, and be “strong, smart, and bold.”
With the smooth transition of the two organizations into one, the women said that their next goal will be working on new fundraising opportunities to expand their program offerings even further.
SAFE Haven will hold its annual Childhood Abuse Prevention event from noon to 3 p.m. April 30 at its location, 1030 Washington Ave., Racine. The event will feature food, games, speakers and a visit with Miss Racine Haley Schonter. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Also upcoming is the third annual GEMS Conference in May, aimed at introducing girls to women in math, science and technology careers.
Girls Inc., in partnership with the American Association of University Women, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Racine Unified School District, SAFE Haven and Workforce Development Center, will host the third annual GEMS Conference (Girls Empowered by Math & Science) at UW-Parkside on May 18 for 240 middle school students.
The GEMS Conference is sponsored by SC Johnson and United Way of Racine County. The objective of the conference is to unite girls, parents, teachers, community leaders and professional women in an effort to increase young women’s knowledge and awareness of math, science and technology careers in a fun, hands-on setting.
The participants will select hands-on workshops that inspire and spark interest in math, science, engineering and technology (STEM) courses.