Be strong. Be smart. Be bold. Take risks, resist gender stereotypes and have confidence in yourself. These are just a handful of the words Girls Inc. of Metro Denver uses to inspire and motivate girls throughout Denver. The nonprofit – an affiliate of its national parent organization – created the six tiered Bill of Rights to inspire confidence and determination in young girls. There are now 80 Girls Inc. affiliates across the U.S., with the Denver office they only current branch in Colorado. Girls Inc. of Metro Denver (GIMD) continues to grow their programming and outreach resources each year, serving just over 2,400 girls in 2017 alone. This equates to over 85,000 hours of curriculum, 16,629 healthy/no cost meals and $50,000 in collegiate scholarships awarded in 2017. The program primarily caters to West Colfax girls due to their location at Julian and Colfax in the heart of the West Colfax neighborhood, and has shown incredible success rates year after year.
Today, GIMD’s center-based programming makes up a significant portion of their work. Center-based programming consists of both after school (3-6 pm) and summer programs, with a curriculum based on whole girl development. The three tiered approach focuses on girls being: strong (healthy living, exercise and nutrition), smart (economic literacy and homework assistance) and bold (advocacy and leadership).
The themes of strength, intelligence and leadership are interwoven through the entire foundation of Girls Inc. programming, which was strikingly evident during a tour of their Denver campus. A walk through the activities and art room is filled with posters the girls made for the 2nd annual Women’s March on Denver. One sign read, “Keep calm with peace and love. Don’t judge people by their race. Thank you MLK for our freedom.”
Sara Hazel is the Director of Development at Girls Inc. of Metro Denver. While on a tour through the Denver facility in the West Colfax neighborhood, the after school programming came to life. It was just after 3 pm, and girls were pouring into the buildings. Hazel explained that the after school program, which caters to girls ranging from 1st to 12th grade, provides a free pick up option from 15 schools across Denver. This is a critical component in making the program accessible and equitable for all participants, many of whom could not attend after school sessions without a ride.
In addition to direct programming and outreach, GIMD recently launched the Eureka! STEM program, a 5 year course that Girls Inc. of Metro Denver runs in partnership with Metropolitan State University in Denver. Eureka! Is open to rising 8th graders, and follows them through their high school graduation. GMID successfully interviews and enrolled 60 girls into the program, and boasted a 97% retention rate. The STEM program includes after-school and weekend workshops, along with summer STEM programs. Topics studied include robotics, architecture, renewable energy, biotechnology and aerospace engineering to name a few. Key evaluation results indicated that 92% of girls find science and/or math interesting, 90% plan to attend college and 85% strongly agree they would like to pursue a STEM career.
“Here at Girls Inc., we are teaching the girls to remove society’s barriers to achieve their goals,” Hazel explained. “It is incredible to see such a high percentage of Eureka’s participants indicating they hope to pursue a career in STEM, as that has not been the trend for women in years past. I think that by introducing these young women to a wide array of STEM topics, we are truly broadening their horizons and expanding their opportunities.”
Girls Inc. of Metro Denver recently took their bold thinking and expanded into the world of social enterprises. Strong, Smart and Bold Beans first launched as a coffee cart in the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Library in 2014. Just three years later, Bold Beans was offered the opportunity to expand their business into a full service café at STEAM on the Platte in the Sun Valley neighborhood. The new location provided the space and infrastructure for Bold Beans to expand their food and drink options, as well as double the number of high school girls employed each year.
Witnessing organizations like Girls Inc. of Metro Denver make a difference in the lives of thousands of girls each year is truly an inspiration. Each day, this nonprofit provides opportunities outside of the classroom that continue to educate young women and prepare them for a bright and exciting future. If you are interesting in learning more about the organization, you can visit their website here. If you are addicted to coffee (like me) check out the link to Bold Beans website here, or visit them at 1401 Zuni Street!