Girls Inc. of St. Louis has much to celebrate: The local chapter of the nationwide youth empowerment nonprofit is a 2020 Outstanding Affiliate of the Year in the large budget category – and also marks its 40th anniversary in 2021.
With a belief that each child has a unique intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical potential, Girls Inc. of St. Louis strives to provide educational, recreational and cultural programs to girls in a safe environment to enable them to raise their aspirations and realize their potential.
“Our program of work focuses on shaping, empowering and inspiring each of the 8,000-plus girls we serve annually – many of whom are from under-resourced, underserved areas – to be strong, smart and bold with their life choices,” says Cheryl Jones, the local chapter’s president and CEO. “We’ve worked hard to become the ‘go-to’ organization for girls. In helping them achieve their potential, we continually raise the bar high for our girls and help them to expect the best from themselves.”
This is the second time in five years that Girls Inc. of St. Louis has been recognized as an Outstanding Affiliate of the Year.
“It is indeed humbling and most gratifying,” Jones says, noting that the honor goes to Girls Inc. organizations that meet an extensive list of criteria emphasizing the quality of the girls’ experience. “This national award is a testament to our outstanding staff and supporters, who have worked diligently to provide our girls with the kind of nurturing and mentorship to help them make good decisions, solve problems, meet their own needs and lead others. We have been relentless in our advocacy efforts locally, statewide and nationally to cultivate awareness of our mission and the needs of our girls and their families … We consider one another family – that’s what truly makes our affiliate so special.”
In addition to the national honor it received, the affiliate was recognized for its response to the COVID-19 crisis: Girls Inc. of St. Louis rose to the challenge of reevaluating and expanding its programming to meet clients’ needs amid the pandemic.
“I am so proud of our staff’s resiliency, flexibility and agility,” Jones says. “Thanks to a number of strategic partnerships, we expanded our educational curriculum by introducing our first virtual learning platform … that included distribution of digital equipment and technical training to ensure a quality academic experience for our girls, who represent 72 schools in seven school districts. [We] provide laptops and technical training not only for our girls but also to their families, who have been paramount to the girls’ successfully completing their assignments.”
Despite the pandemic, the nonprofit also maintained its scholarship program for Girls Inc. alumnae in college to ensure financial security through graduation.
“The sky has always been the limit at Girls Inc., with any number of creative programs, such as learning to code a robot, build a computer, play the drums or our STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) program – and we will continue to incorporate these stimulating programs into our virtual learning platforms to keep it as normal as possible during these uncertain times,” Jones says.
Throughout the past year, the organization also remained committed to broadening its diversity, equity and inclusion programming, as well as providing clients with support in increasing social and emotional support services – especially to the most marginalized in the community, Jones says.
As Girls Inc. of St. Louis looks to the future, it plans to grow its footprint by working with additional community partners to address diversity, equity and inclusion issues, as well as continue to provide hands-on and relevant learning experiences in STEM education for girls, Jones says.
“With the ongoing pandemic, we are most aware of the need to not only continue, but to also expand, our social and emotional services for Girls Inc. and its extended family,” she says.
And when the chapter officially turns 40 this November, there will be a celebration fit for Girls Inc. of St. Louis’ ruby anniversary. Jones confirms: “We are already making big plans!”
Girls Inc. of St. Louis, 3801 Nelson Drive, St. Louis, 314-385-8088, girlsincstl.org