As we have recently transitioned into April and the start of a new quarter, we have begun to shift our focus to our new theme – School Success. To kick off this new theme, we’ll be discussing out-of-school time programming. One of our key partners, Girls Inc. of Chattanooga, is passionate about supporting youth and their education in the Chattanooga community. Toccora Johnson MPH, the CEO of Girls Inc. Chattanooga, opened up to us about the mission and vision of Girls Inc., the common barriers to education and youth success, how you can support local youth and more!
Q: Can you tell us about the mission and vision of Girls, Inc.?
The mission of Girls Inc. of Chattanooga is “to inspire and equip all girls to be strong, smart and bold leaders in their families, their communities and society.”
The vision of Girls Inc. of Chattanooga is “that Girls Inc. of Chattanooga leads the way in empowering girls in an equitable society – helping girls pursue their individual dreams and opportunities to reach their full potential for impacting the world around them”.
We are celebrating 60 years of service to over 28,000 girls and counting!
Q: How does after-school or other out-of-school-time programming support youth education?
Our age-appropriate, hands-on after-school programs are designed to support and enrich academic, social and life skills. The programs, activities and opportunities offered through the Girls Inc. experience are to inspire stronger, smarter and bolder students in the classroom, home, community and world. At the heart of Girls Inc. is a comprehensive approach to whole girl development that equips girls to navigate gender, economic and social barriers and to grow up healthy, educated and independent.
Q: What are some of the out-of-school-time programs that Girls, Inc. runs?
Our OOST programs and seasonal camps are for all girls ages 6-18.
The Bookworm Club – The Girls Inc. Literacy Initiative strives to improve the literacy skills of girls in 1st through 3rd grade by promoting a love of reading and providing fun and engaging programming that supports school-based instruction. Girls build developmentally appropriate reading skills so that they are equipped to succeed in school and participate more effectively in the Girls Inc. experience.
The Tech-Know Girl Club – This is a locally designed after-school STEM program for fourth and fifth grades (4-5). Through the use of research, hands-on exploration and teamwork, girls look at science, technology, engineering and math in a way that is relevant and engaging. Tech-Know Girl empowers girls to enjoy subject matter they might not typically have time to enjoy in a traditional classroom setting and consider career paths they might not otherwise have considered.
Girls Take Charge – Girls Take Charge is a program for middle school teens (6th- 8th). Girls have the opportunity to learn about leadership and character development, practice healthy relationships, develop goal-setting skills, receive job exposure and ultimately grow in a better understanding of who they are.
SHE: She Can, She Will – Teens learn about women who have made an impact throughout history and in their communities. Teens also act as the selection committee for the annual UnBought & UnBossed Awards. They will select a woman from the community to be their mentor, and many of the mentor/mentee relationships continue beyond the program. Through this process, they develop interviewing, research and presentation skills.
Q: What are some of the common barriers to continued education and youth success that children and families face in Greater Chattanooga?
Lack of access and limited transportation are two common barriers to continued education and youth success for our girls and their families.
Q: When it comes to youth success and educational programming in our community, where are the biggest needs?
The biggest need for youth success and educational programming in our community is to be intentional and impactful – to provide hands-on opportunities where girls can see themselves as responsible and productive citizens of their community and our city. Girls Inc. is for EVERY girl and family who wants to be part of this community. We have a range of local and national programs that are uniquely adapted to address the needs of each girl. Another important component of youth success is to engage and support the entire family. In order to have strong, smart and bold girls, we must have strong, smart and bold families.
Q: What can I do to get involved with Girls, Inc. or other organizations supporting local youth?
Girls Inc. strives to engage community members as volunteers and guest speakers in our programs. We have opportunities for community gatekeepers to serve on special board committees and for college students to complete internships within our organization. Whether volunteering in the classroom or aiding in operations, Girls Inc. volunteers play an essential role in helping our girls become successful and in helping our organization achieve our goals. Anyone interested can visit our website at www.girlsincofchatt.org for more information.
When we support our youth community year-round, we equip them for success.
Local organizations such as Girls Inc. help prepare the youth by helping develop and equip them with skills that they will need to flourish as they navigate life into adulthood, their future careers, personal relationships and so much more. It’s often said that by helping the youth of today, we are building the leaders of the future.
With support from partners like this, we can all LIVE UNITED.