Welcome to our annual holiday celebration. Now in our third year, this celebration has become a tradition I look forward to each year. Though, in pattern with much of 2020, I come to you virtually. But, also in pattern, the essence remains: this letter is an opportunity to reflect on the past year; thank our Champions for Girls, other supporters, and partners; and share some of the exciting plans for the year ahead.
For many of us, 2020 is remembered as a year of pain and disruption. Fatalities of Black people resulting from the unwarranted lethal force and the protests that followed put a spotlight on the racism that plagues our communities. While the pandemic has wreaked havoc across our country and the world, its health, economic, and social consequences disproportionally impact Black, brown, and low-income families. Children, especially those from these communities and many whom we serve, will suffer from the negative impact of lost school time for years to come and, for many, for their entire lives. We have worried through one of the most contentious and polarized elections in our history, tearing families apart and severing friendships.
Despite all this, 2020 has also revealed the immense resilience of our staff, girls, and families. In our reflection of this year, we choose to celebrate the enormous strength demonstrated by our Girls Inc. community. In the sections that follow, we highlight some of our shared 2020 successes and exciting 2021 plans – only made more remarkable by the context in which they were achieved.
The Girls Inc. program staff has been amazing – they did not miss a beat. Within two weeks of the schools closing in March, they launched robust virtual live and recorded programs. They delivered personal care products and grocery store gift cards to hundreds of our families, and hundreds more received program kits to support virtual learning.
We have many examples of successful virtual programs that were implemented this year. I would like to highlight four:
- Early Grade Literacy (EGL) – perhaps no one is suffering more academically during this pandemic than the youngest learners in the most under resourced communities. We put together a team and several EGL programs to reach many 5-8 years old girls with engaging programs supported by interactive newsletters, program kits, holiday festivities and family engagement opportunities. EGL was offered during the summer and several days during the week, including Saturdays throughout the school year.
- Eureka! – Eureka! is the capstone of our STEM continuum offered in partnership with Drexel University and Penn Athletics. We were able to offer hands-on STEM education and career exploration opportunities daily over four weeks during the summer and continued sessions during the academic year.
- Construction Camp – Girls Inc. participated in a 6-week summer program in partnership with MyWIC and NAWIC Philadelphia Foundation. With the support of a WorkReady grant, twenty 12-14 year old girls gained hands-on exposure to architecture, engineering, innovative techniques, program management, estimating, and trade construction along with lessons on leadership and community action, post-secondary readiness, STEM education and healthy decision making. See the video here.
- Annual Advocacy Summit – In October, we hosted the She Leads Advocacy Summit for girls and young women ages 6-18 with age appropriate breakout sessions. The summit focused on the importance of civic engagement and included interactive activities, guest speakers, opportunities to network with mentors, and a She Leads Celebration with a live DJ. In addition, all attendees participated in a She Votes Mock Election.
Hear from Stacey, Anjali and Ava about how Girls Inc. programs have impacted them this year:
None of these initiatives would have been possible without the generosity and flexibility of our extraordinary funders. Thank you!
A focus of our five-year strategic plan that is ending in June 2021 is to grow and diversify our funding stream while maintaining our fiscal conservatism. We exceeded that strategic goal and as a result were able to retain our full-time staff without reducing salaries or benefits despite losing important public contracts because of the pandemic and related school closures. Our staff is our most important asset. 100% of the program team came through our internship program and were hand picked as the super star interns. Retaining our team is critical to delivering our high-quality programs while maintaining our mentoring relationships.
There is a lot to be excited about as we enter 2021 and we are hopeful!
- We are already working with new and existing school partners to be part of their school day virtual curricula as we prepare to transition back to our in-school delivery model as soon as that is possible.
- We are seeing the addition of new funding and career exploration partners: individuals, corporations, foundations, and government. We have also observed that the number of funders and depth of volunteer engagement has surpassed previous years.
- We are launching a new alumni program to expand our support of our graduates through college and trade schools into their first full time position and beyond.
AND MOST EXCITING OF ALL!
Girls Inc. @ The BOK
Girls Inc. is moving! In 2021, we will enter a five-year lease for a 3,700 square-foot space located in south Philadelphia’s iconic Bok building. This exciting location positions Girls Inc. in the middle of a flourishing community including women entrepreneurs, nonprofits and schools. For the first time, we will have a warm, welcoming, and fully branded Girls Inc. space specifically designed to support girls as they learn, grow, and explore all the possibilities their futures hold. Importantly, the space will be customized with our staff, programs, and girls in mind. A brand-new Literacy Lab will support young readers and emerging scientists. Girls will also have access to state-of-the-art technology and media resources in a large multi-use space.
We want to introduce you to our new home – well it is not our new home yet; we will be moving to the Bok Building in July 2021. So today, we’re going to ask you to use your imagination while we give you a tour of the unfinished space and introduce you to some of the girls who will benefit. Every month on our website and through newsletters we will update you on the progress, and we encourage you to explore the Bok website and learn about this building’s extraordinary history and its vibrant community. Take a tour with us:
The Next Chapter
Since 2015 we have had extraordinary growth:
- Girls served has increased from 1,400 – to over 3,000
- Girls participating in 35+ hours of Girls Inc. programs annually increased from 10 to over 400
- We expanded into Camden and within three years have 600 participants annually
- Revenue has grown 650%
- Staff has increased from 3 – 15, and we are still hiring
- We are partnering with more schools, shelters, government agencies, corporations, and volunteers than ever before
- Extensive external evaluation has proven that the Girls Inc. model works.
As we contemplate the next Girls Inc. chapter, we do so within the context of our role in the community as a leading girl empowerment organization, the growing demand for and expectations around the work we do, and the contributions Girls Inc. makes in the lives of thousands of girls each year in the greater Philadelphia region and Camden. We knew we needed a space focused on expanding the critical sisterhood of support and meeting 21st century programmatic expectations. As we plan for this move and our future, we are also mindful of the importance of sustainable growth in an uncertain world. This is a focus of our current strategic planning work (Fiscal Years 2022-2026) that we look forward to sharing with you in the spring.
The generous support of our donors and funders makes it possible for us to do this important work. Thank you for helping girls and young women take the lead and build futures full of opportunities! If you would like to make a donation in support of Girls Inc. you can do so here. Thank you! If you would like to learn more please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of the board, staff, and the girls and young women we serve, I wish you a healthy and peaceful New Year, and our best wishes for wonderful 2021.
Please stay safe.