Girl power

Nonprofit project teaches ‘brave ladies’ about the possibilities in their lives

The Post and Courier
Friday, March 26, 2010

Some stood quietly with their arms crossed. But one by one, with the encouragement of two adult volunteers turning the ropes, even the most reluctant girls summoned the courage to try double Dutch.

“Look at all these brave ladies, … all these future governors, mayors of Charleston, principals of schools,” Linda Lucas said to the group assembled at Burke High School.

Photo Gallery

Junior Girls Day Out

The Junior Girls Day Out Community Project held it’s Creative Fun Day at Burk High School. The group aims to provide personal and career development along with education through monthly get-togethers, mentoring sessions, a shadowing program, field trips, community service projects and more to girls ages 7-12.

How to help

To make a contribution to the Junior Girls Day Out Community Project, send a check to P.O. Box 30503, Charleston, SC 29417.

For more information on the program, contact Kathy Jackson at 864-3399 or

The fact that such careers are possibilities is one of the messages the Junior Girls Day Out Community Project hopes to teach its participants: girls ages 7-12.

The nonprofit provides personal and career development along with education through monthly get-togethers, mentoring sessions, a shadowing program, field trips, community service projects and more, said founder Kathy Jackson.

The girls have learned about such things as social skills (including how to dine at a restaurant), life skills (such as personal hygiene and laundry), money management and public speaking. They’ve traveled to the Kennedy Space Center and the White House.

“We believe through these positive outlets that young girls will be inspired and encouraged to fulfill great achievements in their lives, and be deterred from pursuing paths of drugs, violence and other detrimental vices,” said Jackson, who is also the senior program coordinator.

She believes the need for the organization is great, and views it as a third party “to help the parents and the schools by helping girls become well-rounded individuals and successful young ladies.”

All the events, including meals and transportation, are free for participants. There are no criteria for taking part. Some of the girls are referred by their guidance counselors. Others sign up themselves or are signed up by their parents.

Since the organization began in November 2007, it has served more than 200 girls from Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.

Nearly 70 attended an event Saturday, a Junior Girls Creative Fun Day. The National Association of Women in Construction and Burke Community Schools partnered with Junior Girls Day Out for the program, which was the first in the new Junior Girls Inventors Series.

The girls learned about careers in construction before competing in a building competition with Legos, aluminum foil, a piece of yarn and a rock.

Quanila White, a fifth-grader at North Charleston Elementary, constructed a fashion runway complete with Lego models in foil dresses. She said a lot of her friends want to be models, so she could help them by building a runway.

Ny-Asia Smiley built her version of the Eiffel Tower. When asked if she would consider a career in construction, the fifth-grader at Angel Oak Elementary said it would be “too much work.” Instead, she wants to be a lawyer.

“A lot of girls don’t think that construction is for them,” said Laura Kelley, board member of the local National Association of Women in Construction. “They think big machines, big guys.”

The association attempted to tell the girls that they can work those machines in addition to many other jobs in construction, such as architects, engineers, project managers, estimators and construction sales reps.

The girls also played construction-themed bingo until they each won a purple, blue, pink or orange inflatable hammer.

In Burke’s gymnasium, the girls competed in a fruit relay and hula-hoop competition in addition to double Dutch.

Angel Bryant hula-hooped for more than 10 minutes, even with a cast stretching from her fingertips to her elbow. The third-grader at Charleston Progressive Academy had broken her finger while playing basketball.

Bryant has attended multiple events with Junior Girls Day Out and said she was looking forward to Saturday.

“You get to win different things and you can go different places. You go to the bank and out of town,” she said. “It’s fun.”

Lucas, who in addition to volunteering with the project is a guidance counselor at Malcolm C. Hursey Elementary School, said the event allowed one of her students to get away from “less pleasant” surroundings and “brightened up her day.”

She also said more girls need to take advantage of the program.

“What would they be doing otherwise?” she said. “Watching TV?”

Trae Olalere said the program has given her reserved 12-year-old the opportunity to meet other girls and come out of her shell. She called the program “extraordinary.”

“It’s all positive, it’s very motivating and it provides encouragement for the girls. It builds their self-esteem. They see more and are exposed to more than the average child their age. … It provides enrichment for them. Not only that, it can be very useful for them when they get older.”