SUMMARY

  • An article in the Jefferson City News Tribune details some of the efforts being taken by an afterschool program at Lewis and Clark Middle School called the Girls Empowerment Zone. The goal of the program is to provide a safe atmosphere for girls to spend time after school learning and growing in the presence of positive female role models.
  • The founder and director of the program, Callie Newsom, has performed some significant research into the challenges faced by girls growing up, especially girls in troubled neighborhoods. Her research indicates young people without positive figures of the same gender are significantly more likely to feel suicidal than those who do, and that almost a quarter of young women have no positive figure to look up to. In addition, research from the Girl Scouts indicates young African-American girls aspire to be leaders at a higher rate than any other group, yet those desires fall off significantly by the time those girls reach high school.
  • Newsom says the middle school ages are where these girls tend to “fall through the cracks,” and thus focuses on providing these young girls with structured afterschool time in which they can learn, have fun and interact with other girls and learn from outstanding examples of caring, professional and strong women.

INSIGHT

Newsom’s findings are consistent with many reports that indicate kids with a place to go after school are much less likely to engage in risky behaviors. The work she is doing with her organization in Jefferson City is commendable, and she’s already looking at expanding it to other schools.

Flex Academies aims to have the same sort of impact on young girls in the communities and schools it works with. Providing these girls with safe, structured time in which they can learn, grow and be themselves in the presence of positive role models can make a tremendous difference in their lives.

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