Junior Girls Day Out – community project

Sully Witte, Moultrie News

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Empowering women has long been an advocacy that community leaders undertake. But Kathy Jackson took it a step farther. She thought that if you get girls at a young age and positively influence them, you’re almost sure to provide them with the tools for a bright future.
Years ago, Jackson designed a program for 18 to 21 year olds to and help them jump start the rebuilding process of lives. The beneficiaries of this program were first time drug and alcohol offenders.
This time around, she is exposing young girls to positive things so they do not get on the wrong path. The new program is called Junior Girls Day out.
It started with a group of Girl Scouts. It was wildly successful. The program consisted of filed trips and guest speakers and introductions to successful female business owners.
After a year and a half she took the program to a downtown school.
The principal asked her how many girls she could accommodate. At the time, she thought seven to ten would be manageable. He was hoping she could take every girl in the school.
It was then that Jackson realized the need was far greater than she ever imagined.
So, with the help of volunteers and fundraising advocates, Junior Girls Day Out has grown to be county wide. It is open to any young girl and there are no financial requirements for eligibility. Even more importantly, each camp and each outing are free.
Junior Girls Day Out now has a board of directors and a volunteer team that continues to grow. Enrollment in programs has also grown from twelve girls, to 35 girls to this year — 400 girls.
With a career background in radio, television, event marketing, news reporting this time of coordinating and planning comes naturally. She designed and handled events with 200,000 in attendance. So 400 girls was a cinch. It was funding the programs that was extremely important. That is where her volunteers came in.
The philosophy of the program is to promote goals.
“I believe these girls can do whatever they want to do in life. With a positive attitude they can set goals and achieve those goal,” said Jackson. “It’s all about building a good, solid foundation in young girls and showing them what’s available to them.”
“Decision” is a very powerful word to Jackson. She reminds the girls that they have to decide and make good choices. When they don’t the onus lies with them.
“Once these girls make their decisions they know that we as a community are there for them to help them and to lift them up,” Jackson said. “We’re here to show them that they have made a good decision and we are here collectively to help them succeed.
“Our youth are endangered during this hour all across this country,” she said. “With drugs, gangs, bullying, guns, internet violence, and every kind of negative force on the rise. Young people are looking for a way out. Unfortunately, there are many who have chosen suicide and other life-threatening measures as a way of escape from the ever present sense of defeat and destruction.”
Jackson said many youth do not have the proper tools to combat these dire issues they are faced with each day.
“They are constantly looking for answers and direction in the midst of the turmoil,” she said.
As a means of providing answers, Junior Girls Day Out Community Project was launched in 2007. The heart of the organization is to expose young girls to positive and enriching programs, deter them from pursuing paths of destruction, and help keep them on the right path towards reaching their destinies.
“We aim to broaden the horizon of young girls, and help make them well rounded individuals through their exposure and participation in a variety of enriching youth development activities, mentoring sessions, community service projects, field trips, fun outings and more,” Jackson said. “Through these positive outlets, we believe that young girls are inspired and encouraged to fulfill great achievements in their lives, and are deterred from pursuing paths of drugs, violence, and other detrimental vices.”
Junior Girls Day out not only hosts afterschool programs, but there are a variety of summer camps available to the girls.
For the first time ever, girls will be able to attend a two-day computer camp.
Best Buy’s Geek Squad Summer Academy has opened their doors to Junior Girls Day Out. They are the first organization in South Carolina selected to participate in this enriching program that promotes technology empowerment for girls. The Summer Academy is a nationally recognized program endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama.
The Geek Squad Summer Academy will take place on Thursday and Friday, June 23 and 24 at the College of Charleston. Girls, ages 10-17, will learn the following skills: building computers from the ground up, techniques in hardware troubleshooting, designing music and movies on computers, techniques in advanced digital photography, designing animations, and more. They will also participate in fun computer games. Girls will receive t-shirts, “geek squad’ student kits, lunch, and snacks. Jackson is expecting approximately 100-150 girls to be in attendance.
During the school year, Junior Girls Day Out offers twenty-one education, career, personal, cultural, and social enrichment development program activities for elementary school girls, ages 7-12. This year the girls have participated in a variety of program activities including life skills enrichment classes, math and money literacy workshops, nutrition and fitness training, beauty queen self esteem and charm sessions, career shadow experiences and more.
The organization has been applauded by principals, guidance counselors, parents, city officials, and others. They have been featured on the official website of the City of Charleston and was the first entity in history to paint a mural on a City of Charleston building. They also won first place in the City of Charleston’s 2010 Clean Cities Sweep Shots Contest and are currently being featured on 2011 Clean Cities Sweep promotional materials.
Junior Girls Day Out has been so successful that Jackson is launching a program in Atlanta. It will be a jazz music workshop. The group is partnering with a music company out of Arizona to bring in top jazz artists to teach girls to write music, play instruments, and put together an ensemble and perform. They will each make their own CD as well.
“Girls can go on the right or wrong path so we want them to see that they don’t have to take the wrong path in life or business. We want them to say to themselves, ‘I’ve been given the tools to set up my own business and make it successful.’”
Specifically, the program partners with professionals and organizations that women are commonly known for excelling in such as construction, engineering, IT and computer professions.
The girls are also treated to weekend trips to Washington, New York and historical sites.
And just as Jackson is giving back to these young girls, she is teaching them to be volunteers as well. As part of the community service component, the girls will help plan and coordinate a Thanksgiving dinner for homeless and needy families and distribute take home groceries on the day of the event.
“We’re building the leaders of tomorrow,” Jackson said. “We’re not just having them come together and have fun. We want their lives to be impacted and for them to see value in what is being presented and exposed to them.”
To enroll your female child in any of these programs, to register for Geek Squad Camp or to volunteer and donate, contact Jackson at 843-86403399 or email jgdo2007@yahoo.com.