Gates, Author at Alternatives For Girls

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2014 Role Model Awards Call For Nominations

Sep. 12 2013 |

AFG is now accepting nominations for our 2014 Role Model Awards. We invite you to nominate an extraordinary woman who you think would make an excellent AFG Role Model. Complete criteria, along with a writable nominations form, can be found on our Call for Nominations page. We welcome nominations until 5 pm on October 1, 2013.

Concert to Benefit AFG

Aug. 2 2013 |

On August 17th at the Redford Theater at 7 pm, Cecil Cosey and BlackStar Entertainment are hosting a concert featuring Robert Curry of Day 26 and many others. They are going to donate 50% of the event proceeds to AFG. Tickets are $20 in advance. For more information, visit their website.

Blog: Teen Outreach Program

Jul. 31 2013 |

Posted on July 31, 2013 by Angelique

About the blogger: Angelique is 17  years old and has been a Know Risks Peer Educator for about 17 months.  She will graduate from high school in June  2014.

The Teen Outreach Program (TOP) is a community-based program created to educate teens on various topics and open them up to community service learning opportunities.

TOP is something that I will always hold on to.  TOP wasn’t just a learning program that we attend two hours a week, but it was a fundamental learning experience.  I can definitely say it helped me understand myself.

One lesson that stood out to me in TOP was about female leaders from the past and present.  The TOP participants as a group identified the women we felt are role models for us now and who were role models for our elders. The women that were listed ranged from Rosa Parks to Michelle Obama. All the women listed possessed characteristics such as confidence, dedication and humbleness. Since women are sometimes considered inferior to men in today’s society, the activity gave us a different outlook on females. It helped us realize how valuable women are to society and how the world would change drastically without women.

As a TOP participant, we were required to complete a minimum of 20 community service learning hours. We made suggestions on places to earn our hours at, and reach the 20 hour goal. One memorable community service project was “Kitty Forts.” The Humane Society hosted this project.  Its purpose was to create shelter for cats our of brown paper boxes. The TOP facilitators purchased 30 boxes and we used fabric and construction paper to decorate the boxes. We took the boxes to the Humane Society, and were able to see a tour with the animals.

Overall, TOP was a good experience, and is something that I’ll always remember and recommend to my peers. I will participate in TOP again this fall.

Blog: Adventure Therapy

Jun. 27 2013 |

Posted on June 27, 2013 by Sinita

About the blogger: Sinita Williams is a counselor in AFG’s Shelter department. She received her Masters in Social  Work from Wayne State University. While completing her MSW program Sinita  interned at AFG as the Curriculum Coordinator Intern. During her internship, she  was hired as a Program Assistant/Residential Advisor in December 2011. After  completing her MSW program she became the Interim Curriculum Coordinator. Now,  she  works as the Shelter and Transition to Independent Living  Counselor.  

The Shelter Department has just implemented a new program called adventure therapy into their Community Group. The term “adventure therapy” is a fairly new concept but has been proven effective when working with at-risk youth.  Community Group is co-facilitated by me and Counseling Curriculum Coordinator Erika Fox. The group consist of experiential and activity building activities.

Before the start of every group the counselors discuss and review the expectations of the group. Following the expectations the facilitators lead the participants in a series of body stretches to reduce minor injuries.  The format of the group consists of a check-in activity, two main activities, and a check-out activity. A popular check-in activity that is used during group is called “Question Ball Toss” which is tossed in a circle and when caught the participant is asked to answer the question under their left thumb. The check-in activities help the facilitators and other participants recognize where each participant is emotionally.

The two main activities consist of games that focus on healthy coping skills, teamwork, decision making, and communication skills. These activities force some participants out of their comfort zone and force other participants to recognize their leadership skills. During the main activities the facilitators observe the participants’ initiatives and only respond to the participants with thought-provoking questions. These questions force the participants to communicate and strategize effective ideas.

During the check-out activity the facilitators encourage the participants to sit in a circle and reflect on their experiences. During this time participants discuss the challenges and strengths that they encountered during the activities. The facilitators also have the participants connect lessons that they have learned to situations that they face in their daily lives. Erika and I are excited about the new format and have high hopes for the lasting impact that it will have on the shelter participants.

Blog: Why I Want to Become a Part of AFG’s Transition to Independent Living Program

Apr. 24 2013 |

Posted on April 24, 2013 by Daniella

About the blogger: Daniella is a relative newcomer to AFG’s Shelter. She wrote this blog as part of her application to AFG’s Transition to Independent Living (TIL) Program, AFG’s long-term shelter program that helps homeless young women become truly independent  Since writing this, Daniella has been accepted into TIL. 

My vision for an independent woman is, being able to rely on myself; having my own money, car, house and every other necessity. I’m homeless because after my father died, my mother was constantly trying to have me move in with relatives I really wasn’t close with. I was very depressed and had very low self-esteem. I had very bad grades starting in the 8th grade and it was hard for me to focus. In high school I got kicked out for 240 days and never went back. My mother and I didn’t get along once she got her new boyfriend. One day she kicked me out, but I saved $900 and moved to north California. But I was homeless there too and moved back here.  Being here at Alternatives for Girls has helped me so much. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been going to school; I found a job and I have health insurance.

Participating in the TIL program will help me reach that goal by providing me a guaranteed place to stay so I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to lay my head after work. It will also help me save my money because I don’t have to pay rent. And when I’m ready to go back to California I will be prepared with enough money to buy an apartment.

Being here will also help me get a car. Catching the bus is hard, especially in the cold weather. The buses are unreliable and it can be harder trying to find work when relying on the bus. This program will help me save money for the future.

Blog: What I Think and How I Feel About New Choices

Mar. 15 2013 |

Posted on March 15, 2013 by Babydoll

About the blogger: Babydoll has been a participant in AFG’s New Choices Program for eight years. She first came into the program seeking support as survivor of severe mental, emotional, and sexual abuse. She continues to be active in the program today.

I’ve been coming to New Choices for eight years. New Choices is a great opportunity for change and growth; a place of support without judgment. Group workshops include time for goal-setting and case planning, and are always confidential. New Choices has a vast array of services: from the clothing closet, to condom packets, with daily transportation, hot lunches, and shower and laundry facilities-New Choices participants receive a lot of services!

New Choices is a place I call home when I feel lost. It’s a place that helps me find my way. New Choices helped me become more self-sufficient. The staff are beautiful women, powerful and influential, dedicated, supportive, kind, understanding, strong, and sensitive. These women make me a better person. They gave me back my will to live.  I have much love to all the staff for their unyielding support and encouragement.

From my thirty-day stay in the hospital, major surgery, a horrible car accident, the sudden death of my closest brother, and many other challenges, New Choices has always been there for me, and they still are, today.

All the New Choices women are unique individuals; yet we are united in our struggles. Overcoming obstacles, we are here to help one another face adversity. We share, love, and care for one another when we’re down, and we’re always here to lift one another to new heights. We learn, grow, share, talk, laugh, and cry together. We are intelligent, understanding, loving women who continue to learn from one another when things get us down. New Choices reminds us to hold our heads up – the sky’s the limit! There is no limit!

Blog: A Day in the Life of a Peer Educator

Jan. 23 2013 |

Posted on January 23, 2013 by Christen

About the blogger: Christen is a high school senior and Peer Educator at AFG. She has been a PE for over a year. She is currently on the Youth Street Outreach Peer Education team.

My days have certainly changed since becoming a Peer Educator (PE) in Outreach. I am currently on a team called Youth Street Outreach, and I love being on this team! No day is the same going on shift. We go out into the community, spreading the word about AFG and offering resources. We talk to so many different females, some sharing their lives while others are apprehensive. And while doing our outreach, we become closer to one another and share too many laughs to count! Even though I’m the newest member on the team – they make me feel like I’ve been there just as long as they have.

On Youth Street Outreach, my days are just wonderful! Here’s a glimpse into a typical day for a PE:

4:30 p.m.- Our team meeting starts. We share our “roses” and “thorns” from our days, and laugh over one teammate’s story about her math class. We pack our bag, and it’s time to head out.

4:45 p.m.- We load into the vans, and our journey to find young women to talk to begins. Jessica starts telling a story, talking 100 miles per hour. Hope is our DJ via the radio, and Ms. Jaye, our staff coordinator, is just cracking up laughing.

5:00 p.m.- We are about to do Outreach at the Transit Center, which is where I enjoy going the most because there’s always young women to talk to. We see a girl and ask if we can talk to her, and she politely says, “No.”Aww man – we don’t get too many ‘no’s but when we do, it’s kind of a downer. But you have to go right back in and try with another girl, and she says “Yes.” Yay! We talk to her and give her a Teen Help Card (THC), and we head back to the van.

5:30 p.m.- Ms. Jaye announces, “OK ladies. Here’s a group of girls. Who’s going out?” We grab our bags and hop out. As we’re speaking to the young women, a girl mentions her friend is homeless. We tell her more about AFG and give her our number. Then another girl asks, “How’d y’all get this job?” We tell her about leadership training and how we became PEs.

6:00 p.m.-We get back in the van, and Ms. Jaye asks us how it went. We tell her about it, and we start going back to AFG. We complete our shift summary and make sure everything is correct.

6:30 p.m.- It’s dismissal time, and even though my nose is running and my hands are halfway frozen, I don’t even care because I know that with what I’m doing, I’m helping someone in some way, and that’s what makes me the most proud. My day was great.

Blog: Transition to Independent Living Program teaches young women to sustain independence

Dec. 20 2012 |

Posted on December 20, 2012 by Melody Moore

About the blogger: Melody Moore is the Curriculum Coordinator at Alternatives For Girls, working with the young women in our Shelter/Transition to Independent Living Program.

Living independently means a lot to young ladies who face tumultuous times. It means being able to financially sustain yourself. It means having the knowledge on how to acquire and maintain a job, search for housing, manage money and even pursue higher education. These are among the many topics covered in the Transition to Independent Living Program offered at Alternatives for Girls.

The 12-week program has two components. The first, Career Paths,  meets for two hours, four days week for six weeks.  Through Career Paths, students have hands-on learning opportunities including mock job interviews with hiring professionals. Additional topics include: professional hygiene and presentation, budgeting and credit reports, grocery shopping on a budget and landlord/tenant rights.

The second component, Life Skills, also meets for six weeks, addressing interpersonal life skills such as healthy relationships, communication, conflict resolution, coping with stress, and self-esteem.  Through interactive activities, creative arts, and group dialogue, the young ladies define their values, build self-awareness, and develop skills to make healthy choices.

Additionally, during and after program completion,  support services, which include counseling sessions and advisory meetings, are offered. Through the TIL Program, we support participants in identifying their goals and developing the skills they need to grow into strong, independent women.

Blog: What I did this summer…

Aug. 28 2012 |

Posted on August 28, 2012 by Sandra Svoboda

About the blogger: Sandra Svoboda has been a volunteer at Alternatives For Girls for the past two years. She has worked as a writer at the Associated Press, The (Toledo) Blade and Detroit’s Metro Times and is currently a reservist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.With a journalism/history degree from Indiana University and a master’s in public administration, she has taught at Wayne State University (political science, journalism, public relations and speech communication) and Owens Community College (speech). She and her husband have three rescued animals and are avid bicyclists.

How hard could it be to lead 90 minutes of a Creative Writing workshop for a dozen girls, I thought? And the “Turning Books Into Plays” session? Well, that would just be good plain fun, right?

If I have to honestly answer those questions about my summer as a “Rise N Shine” volunteer, I would say “pretty tough but fulfilling” and “fun, yes, but also stressful, chaotic yet extremely rewarding.”

For two years I’ve been the Wednesday evening volunteer receptionist at Alternatives For Girls. I buzz people in the front door, answer the telephone and transfer calls and handle other assorted questions, tasks and surprises. When I looked into volunteering at AFG, I had originally wanted to tutor, but at the time, staff suggested the desk duty. If that’s what AFG needed, that was fine by me.

But several months in, someone found out I was a writer. One thing led to another and I ended up with the Creative Writing Workshop. And somehow, in a moment of weakness at the volunteer orientation, I agreed to turn a book into a play in a second session of camp.

And that all led to six weeks of a strange combination of sheer terror (for me, not the girls, I hope) as I tried to figure out how to blend writing and theater production into some sort of fun formula for the group of 8- to 10-year-old girls.


With generous donations from friends and professional contacts, the girls got composition books. Thanks to the Internet, friends’ suggestions and the girls’ ideas, I think we blended some fun, nurtured some creativity and learned a bit about writing.

They penned stories about colorful or odd photographs I gave them, including one my parents’ dog in a pink hat and figurines outside of a temple in Bangkok. My friend Lorena Craighead, the journalism teacher at Renaissance High School, led them in a poetry workshop. They learned to write about what their senses picked up: what did objects look like, smell like, sound like and make them feel.

And we played dictionary games – writing sentences with alphabetized works “Alternatives for Girls is wonderful,” for example, and seeing how many page turns it took to find certain words as practice using guidewords in the reference books.

One of the toughest things was figuring out how to have writing activities that worked for the girls’ varying abilities. There can be a big range of reading and writing levels in this age group, and I have even greater respect for classroom teachers. But I think I was worried about it more than the girls were. Most of them enthusiastically shared their work with each other, standing up to read their stories to the class and modestly accepting all the applause.


Then there was the “Turning Books Into Plays” session.

I’m not sure I’ll ever again trust Emmet Mitchell, Associate Director of Prevention, after he told me how “simple” and “fun” this would be! And I thought this was supposed to be about the girls, but in retrospect, I think I learned as much as they did!

Among my lessons:

First, on the beginning day, have three books ready for the girls to read and decide which one they want to do as a play. Then make sure the proposed selections don’t overlap with another group, and be ready for a tie-breaker in case the group is evenly split. And do this in ONE day, not over THREE weeks.

Second, write the script with enough parts for everyone and leave gaps for the girls to “write” some of the lines. But in “creating” the parts and the characters, also allow for varying levels of comfort on stage and their ability to memorize lines. Also have positions with props and sets if someone doesn’t want to perform.

Third, everyone should get a costume of some sort.

Fourth, rehearse.

Fifth, understand your own limits and recruit the experts. I could not have created the pink castle that drew gasps from the audience, the rose bush, the varying sized doors, nor the Cheshire Cat panels without Sean Bieri and Andy Groh. Thanks guys!

Sixth, have the girls make some of the sets. They all drew and colored butterflies that we hung from sticks for the garden scene. And then they got to take them home as Rise N Shine souvenirs.

Seventh, carry tape, safety pins and magic markers and have them accessible right up to when the girls go on stage.

Eighth, do not let them see you cry because you are SO PROUD of them when they pull it off spectacularly at the Finale.

So while Alice fell down the Rabbit Hole and found Wonderland, I tumbled into a summer of fun at Rise N Shine. I met some lovely young ladies whom I hope to see again in other AFG programs, and I’m looking forward to next summer. Yes, Emmet, I’ll do it again!

Blog: The Importance of New Choices

May. 22 2012 |

Posted on May 22, 2012 by Alana Gracey

About the blogger: Alana Gracey is the Safe Choices Project Manager at Alternatives For Girls. In her role, she oversees the Safe Choices Project, AFG’s program that reaches out to women involved in commercial sex work, connecting them with needed resources. New Choices, a part of Safe Choices, continues to be one of the few full-service programs for girls and women involved in the commercial sex industry in the country.

Making different choices can mean the difference between feeling stuck in a situation that can’t be changed and finding the spark of hope that can propel a woman on to taking control of her life.  New Choices, Alternatives For Girls’ exiting sex work program, believes this to be true and works with women around empowerment, recognizing that the women’s experiences make them the experts in changing their own lives.

One of the most powerful aspects of New Choices is peer leadership.  It is one thing for staff members who utilize genuine caring as well as knowledge to guide women as they move toward positive changes.  However, it is quite another for women who have been in similar high-risk situations to be role models to their peers.  Peer Leadership not only provides women in transition with hope, it provides them with proof that what so many people have told them is impossible is actually possible.

Women have the power to work together and change themselves.  We tap into what quintessentially makes us women and we realize that we have the power to make the choice to change.  The things we’ve learned in the past—the choices we’ve made in the past do not have to bind us to our current existence.  As women, we realize our self-worth and our greatness.  We know that we can be different—that the quality of our lives can be better.  It does not happen overnight, but we know that these things can begin simply by making New Choices.