published Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Girl's Inc.: A success story

There are many ways to determine the effectiveness of an organization that serves youngsters, but one of the best is to note how often those who take advantage of offered programs meet agency goals. By one important yardstick, Girls Inc. of Chattanooga, which celebrates 50 years in the city on Friday, is doing quite well, indeed.

The original mission of Girls Inc. was to teach young women how to become good homemakers. The agency mission has evolved as society has changed. Today, one of the primary goals of Girls Inc. is to help youngsters find rewarding careers. A key to that, of course, is providing the skills and tools that are needed to attain success in elementary, middle and high school and, later, in the pursuit of higher education. Girls Inc. here -- part of an organization with chapters in every state and in Canada -- is doing that.

The Chattanooga organization has 100 percent college attainment rate in the last three years. Each of the 20 young women who graduated from high school in that span while enrolled in Girls Inc. has gone on to college. That's a significant achievement. Many high school students here (both male and female) here fail to graduate or, if they do earn a diploma, do not continue their schooling at a college or university.

"Four years ago when I started, I started looking at how many of our girls in our after-school programs go to college," said Bea Lurie, president and CEO of Girls Inc. of Chattanooga. "It's been 100 percent, and what I love about that number is that it is with girls who were not initially planning to go to college."

Enrolling in college is one thing; remaining there is another. Lurie is understandably proud of the fact that the 20 recent graduates of her organization's program not only enrolled in college, but are "thriving" there. Nineteen of the 20 are in four-year colleges. The other is attending a two-year college, but that rightly is counted as an agency success story, too. That young lady, Lurie reports, had not been planning to attend college at all before enrolling in after-school programs at Girls Inc.

The college program offered by Girls Inc. is not the only activity offered there. It is one of about a dozen available to registrants aged 6-18. The organization's reach extends beyond the 350-500 individuals it serves directly each year. Many parents of those enrolled at Girls Inc. participate, too. The agency also reaches other youngsters, both boys and girls, through peer programs it sponsors.

A gala celebration of Girls Inc.'s 50-year presence in Chattanooga is scheduled Friday at the Chattanoogan. The success of the organization's college and other programs over the years no doubt will be noted then. It's an appropriate time, as well, forChattanoogans to remember Girls Inc.'s tradition of service to the community.

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