Every girl deserves a bright future

From Backpacks to Briefcases:

By Vincent Lyles
President/ CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milw.

Vincent Lyles

Vincent Lyles

With March being Women’s History Month, now is the perfect time to reflect on an important decision made by Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee 30 years ago.

This decision meant girls would become official members at the Clubs and our name would no longer be just the Boys Club.

We are extremely proud to be a leader in supporting young women and girls in Greater Milwaukee and have commemorated this 30th anniversary celebration as Year of the G.I.R.L. – Growing Inspirational & Responsible Leaders – an acronym created by our female members.

Girls now make up 43 percent of Boys & Girls Clubs’ overall membership, totaling 18,128 girls in 2013.

As the largest Club in the nation, Milwaukee has developed groundbreaking, transformative programs like Sista Pride and Señoritas en Àccion to meet the needs of female Club members.

Both are girls-centered programs that provide young women with the platform to voice ideas and opinions in a safe, supportive environment, and develop problem solving skills as well as participate in community service.

In addition to girls-centered programs, girls are active in all areas of the Clubs. Here are just some of the ways girls were involved at Boys & Girls Clubs in 2013:

• 2,036 girls accessed their neighborhood Club on average each day

• 4,070 girls received homework help through our Power Hour initiative

• 84 teen girls held summer internships at various Club sites and prominent Milwaukee businesses, including Molina Health Care and Direct Supply

• Nearly 120 girls participated in Queens on the Court, a middle school basketball league that runs from March through June

• 513 girls participated in our character and leadership programs, Keystone and Torch Clubs

During Year of the G.I.R.L., Boys & Girls Clubs will offer new opportunities to our female members as well as other girls in the area.

One of these opportunities was a visit to Girls’ Day at City Hall on March 28, where our young women in Sista Pride learned about careers in public service from local leaders, including Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs and Mayor Tom Barrett.

Area girls will also have the chance to attend the Club sponsored Town Hall Meeting held at Mount Mary College on May 20. This event will bring awareness to an issue affecting our community – domestic sex trafficking.

Tina Frundt, Founder and Executive Director of Courtney’s House in Washington D.C., will be speaking at the event.

These are just a few of the opportunities offered to our members in 2014 and we are grateful to partner with so many other local youth-serving agencies, such as PEARLS for Teen Girls and Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast, that support young women in our community.

It is important that we provide all girls with the chance to reach their full potential and pursue successful and inspiring lives. This will have a great effect on an entire population.

“Empowering women is not only a goal in itself. It is a condition for building better lives for everyone on the planet.” — Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary- General

As March marks Women’s History Month, I invite you to celebrate this milestone anniversary with me, Boys & Girls Clubs and all of the inspirational and responsible leaders making a stronger Milwaukee.

Until my next column, you’re invited to visit a Boys & Girls Club nearest you.

Visit our website at www.boysgirlsclubs.org to find a location. Keep up-to-date about Boy & Girls Clubs and other youth-related news through www.facebook.com/bgcmilwaukee, on Twitter at @bgcmilwaukee, or at www.boysgirlsclubs.org.