Girls Inc of Metro Denver: Improving Communities By Empowering Girls

By providing programming that targets the many areas of a girl's life, Girls Incorporated of Metro Denver is increasing their chances of success. They're also helping to improve the communities that those girls live in.

By Jessica Lyons

Part of the national organization Girls Inc., Girls Incorporated of Metro Denver provides a variety of center-based and outreach programming to girls ages 6-18. Each year they help between 2,000 and 2,500 girls, who 'blossom' and enjoy long-lasting impacts, according to organization Director of Development Brenda Stewart. recently spoke to Stewart about the organization and why it's important to help these young girls. When was Girls Incorporated of Metro Denver formed and what is its mission?

Brenda Stewart: We were created in 1983, so this is our 29th year in Denver and our mission is fairly simple. It's to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold. And we do that by offering prevention and empowerment programs for girls ages six through 18 that really prepare them for success in any area of life.

We really focus on everything that would make a girl whole, if you will - provide program opportunities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, economic literacy, college prep, health and sexuality, culture and heritage. Our health and sexuality programs are pretty popular actually and if most people are familiar with us, they'll know us by those. We provide comprehensive sexual education for all age levels in an age-appropriate format. Why do you think it's important to start reaching out to these girls at a young age?

BS: As most people can relate to, you use building blocks throughout your life to make decisions and to educate yourself. So when you learn to read when you're a young person, it's going to help you later in life, regardless of what your age is, and it's the same with any skill or any goal that you set for yourself.

The earlier you can intervene in a child's life, the more success that they will have, whether it's regarding academics, balancing your checkbook, setting plans for your future and going to college, finding gainful and meaningful employment later on, etc. So we really believe that interacting with girls at a very young age... (is) critically important to help build upon each year. When Girls Inc. works to improve the lives of young women, how do you think that in turn impacts the community as a whole?

BS: The health of your community can be measured by the health and status of the children or the weakest in your population. If we can intervene in a young girl's life, then we can intervene in that family's life, and if you have strong families in a community, then your community itself is going to be stronger. What do you think that people in communities throughout the country can do to help empower girls?

BS: I think one of the biggest things they can do is really listen to what a girl has to say and take her seriously and the same can be said for boys too. Children are full of ideas and they're full of aspirations and if we could just challenge ourselves a little bit more to be willing to listen to those in a heartfelt way and in a meaningful way, and realize that education comes in many different forms and it shouldn't be limited to five basic subjects that you go through in a day at school. Education needs to be taught in whatever realm of life that is most relevant for the issues that a girl might be facing at that time. When it comes to fulfilling your mission, what do you think is the biggest challenge that Girls Inc. faces?

BS: There are numerous challenges. Funding is always a challenge for any non-profit organization and certainly for us. We are very, very lucky to have a strong historical funding base that has been very generous to us over the years. But every year we have a budget to make and that directly correlates with how many lives we can affect and how many girls we can help set on the right course in their future.

Funding is always a way for people to make a real difference, whether it's a five dollar donation or a $50,000 donation; they're all equally important to us. I also think that people can volunteer. They can volunteer their time, their energy, their knowledge, in whatever capacity might work right for them. What are your future goals for the organization?

BS: Girls Inc. of Metro Denver is a local affiliate of a national organization called Girls Inc. and our national organization is on a 3-year growth plan initiative to increase the number of girls that we serve, and so for us, we're hoping to increase by about 300 girls a year at the very least and with that comes an increase in resources that we have to provide services to those girls. We're very excited for that. What can people do to help and get involved with Girls Incorporated of Metro Denver?

BS: Becoming a donor, obviously, is one of the easiest ways. Also, becoming a volunteer, serving on our board, helping lead fundraisers. We are lucky to have a group of fundraising volunteers called the Girls Inc. Alliance and that group is a subcommittee of our Board of Directors and they help produce our largest special event of the year.

That event is called Girls & Guys Night Out and it's always a big comedian event. It's very fun, has about 1,000 people in attendance and in that one night alone we generate between 15% and 20% of our yearly operating revenue. So it's a really important event. This year's comedian is Jay Mohr and our event is happening on Friday, October 26 and so even just purchasing a ticket to that event and coming out and having a good time that night is very helpful.

Each year Girls Inc. of Metro Denver gives away $45,000 in college scholarships to deserving young women in our programs and we are extremely proud of that and so there are always opportunities to get involved on that level. Is there anything else that you'd like to share with our readers about Girls Incorporated of Metro Denver?

BS: We are very grateful for their time that they spend learning about us and sharing our story with others that they might know as well and that just really knowing that girls truly are strong, smart and bold and that you can be influential in a girl's life, no matter who you are or what you do for a living, that you always have something to give.

While Girls Inc. is empowering girls, Reading Seed is empowering young readers.

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