Evelyn, a fifth-grade student, was once quiet and lacked the confidence to raise her hand in math class. That is until Fall 2017, when she stumbled upon a Girls Inc. of San Diego County poster in the hallway at school and registered.
Since that moment, Evelyn began attending Girls Inc. programming every Tuesday with Rosa Alvarado, the Program Coordinator for GISD.
Throughout Fall 2017, Evelyn participated in FriendlyPEER sessions lead by Rosa. In the FriendlyPEER program, girls develop skills to resist pressure to use harmful substances, such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco and household chemicals. After learning healthy ways to manage stress and deflect peer, media and other pressures that contribute to substance use, girls become peer educators (PEERsuaders) for younger girls.
“The Girls Inc. sessions allowed me to learn more about the impact of alcohol and how to be a better advocate for girls. This has helped me become more aware of my surroundings and other people in my life that may struggle with these issues,” says Evelyn.
Outside of the structured programming, being part of the GISD community has also created a safe, comfortable place for Evelyn to share ideas and build confidence. Now Evelyn has set new, more ambitious goals for herself. She says GISD has inspired her to be more confident in the classroom and learn new subjects.
When she started working with the school, Rosa had all of the girls define what Strong, Smart and Bold meant to them—the key pillars of Girls Inc. She taught the girls that part of being Bold is to take risks, even when you’re intimidated or afraid. That really stuck with Evelyn, and helped her change her outlook on school and her personal life.
“Evelyn was once the quietest girl in the class, and now she raises her hand a lot more,” says Rosa. “I hear from her teachers that she tries a lot harder in math—which was once a subject that was very intimidating to her—and volunteers to go in front of the class to solve problems. She’s confident and is becoming increasingly curious about new subjects, which is rewarding to watch.”
“You can see Evelyn’s positive changes outside of the classroom as well. Since being involved with GISD, she’s become an advocate for others. When she’s out with kids at recess and lunch, or when she notices kids are bullying, she stands up for herself and others,” said Rosa.
GISD gives Evelyn, and other girls like her, a space where she can learn new skills and be herself. In 2018, Evelyn and her peers will learn about healthy sexuality in the GISD Healthy Sexuality program. The program helps girls understand and embrace sexuality with a positive, empowered approach that is built on a foundation of accurate information, cultural sensitivity and values of inclusiveness and respect.