Girls In Progress (GIP) is a youth development program that incorporates mentoring, community leadership exposure, the arts, and emotional and physical wellness for at-risk girls. This program was developed in partnership with the Academic Opportunities for Success (AOS) Linkage Coordinator for Newark City middle schools. GIP is based on the findings that the more time spent mentoring the female at-risk student population, the better empowered these girls will be to succeed in high school, as well as make healthy and informed life choices that will give them a strong foundation and a positive future.
The girls are identified for inclusion in the program based on low school performance, personal and emotional struggle, and many are in generational poverty. Many lack financial resources and supportive, affirming home environments. GIP gives support and mentorship to young women who are trying to find their footing on their own. Mental Health America of Licking County (MHALC) staff meets in the schools two to three times each week with the students, providing inspiration, motivation, and compassion to girls that do not have this type of support at home. Critical conversations about identity, self-esteem, body image, future hopes and plans, healthy relationships, aspects of poverty and financial literacy, anger management, wellness and mental health take place along with times of creating through needle arts and art journaling. “Exposure” trips introduce the girls to strong female professionals in our community who demonstrate the courage, discipline, and passion that it takes to forge a life of purpose and meaning. Leadership qualities are discussed and explored.
Some exposure trips have included the Columbus Museum of Art with special emphasis on women in the arts and the life of local artist Aminah Robinson, a visit to the Licking County Municipal Courts and time spent with Marcia J. Phelps, Licking County Municipal Court Clerk. We spent time with a passionate and energetic entrepreneur who runs a successful pet grooming service in Columbus. Our most recent trip was to the Licking County Sheriff’s office to meet with two women, a deputy and a high ranking detective, both with powerful life stories of adversity and perseverance.