girls inc: planning for the future
Girls are stronger than…
Girls are bolder than…
Girls are greater than…
These words are written across large sheets of newsprint taped to the wall. Beneath them, the girls of Girls Inc DC , ages 11-16, have written words like “gossip,” “haters,” “bullying,” “sexism,” “stereotypes” and many others.
“Programs like Girls Inc provide girls with a support system, and opportunity to expand their vision, to know they are worthy, they are smart, they have ideas, and that they can shape ideas into their goals,” said Denese Lombardi, executive director of Girls Inc DC. “With the help of their peer network and staff, they can acquire the skills to reach those goals.”
Such programs are particularly vital in the metro DC area, where one in ten girls do not graduate high school and more than 64,000 adults lack a high school diploma, according to the Washington Area Women’s Foundation.
For these reasons, and many more, Girls Inc DC emphasizes a strong focus on education and career goals, with a particular focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) topics, business and financial literacy.
“We make sure there are lots of positive attitudes and we try to create a positive atmosphere,” said programming coordinator Christina Parrish. “We provide mentoring so the girls can see women who look like them being successful.”
Denese, Christina and their colleagues make sure the girls have plenty of role models, from Howard University student mentors to female executives at companies such as Lockheed Martin, NASA, Sysco and Booz-Allen.
Girls Inc enjoys a partnership with Lockheed Martin to encourage girls to pursue a STEM-strong education. The SHE-E- O program provides opportunities to visit major companies and speak with women in positions of leadership, who may become mentors as the girls pursue their education and begin to map out career goals.
“We want to have our girls see women in these places,” said Denese, “particularly in our case, women of color, who are few and far between in the STEM fields.”
At present, the majority of Girls Inc DC students come from the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science, with others coming from schools including E.L. Haynes Middle School, Banneker High School, Eastern High School,
SEED Public Charter School, and Two Rivers Public Charter School. A major part of the 3-year plan, Denese and Christina said, is to expand the Girls Inc DC body to include students from more schools east of the river to provide more girls in the city access to everything Girls Inc has to offer.
“We are creating women who are healthy, educated and independent,” said Christina. “There is a need for programs to encourage women to take their place. There is a huge disparity in the treatment of women in our country and other countries. It's about bringing us up to human level. A girl-only, pro-girl environment is important."