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June Volunteer Spotlight: Marie Lowry

Jun. 8 2017 | Tags: , , ,

Each month, Alternatives For Girls’ Volunteer Department, highlights one volunteer who AFG staff recognize as being dedicated, passionate, and going above and beyond. This month we spotlight Marie Lowry, a volunteer in AFG’s Prevention Program!

Marie has been a longtime supporter of Alternatives For Girls and spent the past year volunteering as a tutor for the after-school program. In recent months, she has gone above and beyond by leading a project to improve the library at AFG.

When speaking with Marie, she explained that her proudest moment as a volunteer came when she consistently tutored a young girl in the after-school program. The girl was struggling with her handwriting, which was affecting her ability to complete her homework. After a few weeks of practice, not only did the participant’s handwriting improve but so did her academic performance and confidence with her school work!

Marie takes pleasure in being part of an organization that focuses on girls and women and especially enjoys working with the younger girls of the Prevention Department. One of Marie’s strengths is her enthusiasm, which also makes her an excellent volunteer. Marie’s enthusiasm for tutoring each week demonstrates to the girls and young women in the program that she cares about them and values her time with them. Marie also spreads her passion within her own community, as she frequently shares opportunities with members of her church to support AFG and become more involved.

Thank you, Marie, for continuing to make a difference in the lives of girls and young women.

Interested in volunteering? Please contact Jenny Clement, Volunteer Services Manager, at 313-361-4000 x248 or to discuss the next steps to becoming a volunteer at Alternatives For Girls!

A Graduation Story: One of AFG’s high school graduates shares her struggles and triumphs

May. 31 2017 | Tags: , ,

This spring, high school seniors everywhere will be counting the days until their graduation day. Graduating from high school is an important milestone for every young adult, but for some, the path to graduating is filled with obstacles, like homelessness or violence in their communities.

Despite these challenges, young women in AFG’s programs get the help and resources they need to walk across the stage with their peers. We are happy to report that for the 17h year in a row, 100% of the high school seniors in our Prevention Program will be doing just that! Below is a story of a young woman preparing for her next chapter, as a college freshmen.

Making the Grade

Meet Anayeli. Anayeli is 18 years old and has been a participant in AFG’s After-school Program for the past four years. “Freshmen and sophomore years were easy. Junior year and senior year were stressful! I felt like I needed a week and a half just to do my nightly homework,” Anayeli recalls.

When she needed help with her homework, Anayeli knew just where to turn. “The homework help and all of the staff and volunteers that helped, made a big difference. Right now I have a low grade in English, but I’m working on getting it to an A or B for my last report card.”

Looking Forward to the Future

AFG has also helped Anayeli decide which college to go to. “Coming to AFG helped me decide to go to college and see which ones I wanted to go to. We took field trips to visit colleges. I applied to two of those places and got accepted to one of them!”

Now that she’s almost done with high school, Anayeli says she will miss hanging out with her friends every day. But, she is looking forward to the flexibility that college will bring to her daily schedule, “I’m looking forward to not being at the same school for 8 hours a day. In college, you get more breaks!” she smiles. After she graduates next month, Anayeli plans to attend college in the fall and begin a pre-nursing program so she can become a nurse one day.

Earth Day Service Project: Girls and young women partner with volunteers to give back to the community and take care of the environment

May. 1 2017 | Tags: , , ,

Alternatives For Girls participated in Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) on Saturday, April 22nd.  GYSD is an annual campaign that mobilizes millions of youth to improve their communities each year through service.  Celebrated in over 100 countries, GYSD is the largest service event in the world!  In an effort to spread the word about this annual event, The Michigan Community Service Commission offered mini grants to organizations who were interested. Alternatives For Girls applied, and received one of these grants.

“The Prevention team and I brainstormed on project ideas.  We wanted to make sure that the project would be a good overall learning experience for the young ladies,” said Jenny Clement, AFG’s Volunteer Services Manager, who helped lead the project along with AFG’s Prevention Program.  They made plans to do a community clean up, plant flowers, build a bench, and build bird feeders out of recycled materials.

During the planning phase, Jenny reached out to Home Depot in Dearborn.  They generously supported this effort by donating soil, mulch, bird feeders, and the materials needed to make a bench.  In addition to sending the supplies, ten volunteers also came to help with the project!  Over 40 people, including the girls and young women in AFG’s Prevention Program, convened to help clean up the outside of AFG and the surrounding community.

Serissa, a participant in the Prevention Program, really enjoyed her experience.  “We planted flowers, pulled weeds, and helped polish the bench once it was done,” she enthusiastically explained.  Serissa’s favorite activity was when she planted flowers around the AFG sign, which graces the front lawn.  “It’s the first thing that people see and I wanted to make sure it looked nice!”

One goal for the project was for the young woman to learn about the importance of giving back to the community.  “For this project, I picked up the trash around AFG.  It made me think about my own neighborhood and how I can help keep it clean,” said Karen, another participant in the Prevention Program.  It is no coincidence that GYSD took place on  Earth Day, a time where we all reflect on environmental issues and take action in ways that can make the world cleaner and safer for generations to come.

The girls and young women, volunteers, and AFG staff walked away with a commitment to continue taking care of the environment year round, instead of just one day.  This day of service was an extension of what is already being taught in the Prevention Program and the girls plan to continue to learn about recycling and ways to take care of the environment. In addition, Home Depot has made a commitment to come back to help maintain the projects that were started.  Indeed, it was a great learning experience for all and the outcome ignited a deeper commitment for a cleaner, safer, environment!

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank Home Depot for volunteering and donating supplies for this project, as well as Attack Hunger for donating lunch for all of the young women and volunteers!

Trick-Or-Treat: The Prevention Department hosts festive Halloween party at Alternatives For Girls

Nov. 1 2016 | Tags: , , ,

On October 27th Alternatives For Girls’ halls were filled with ghouls and goblins for the Prevention Department’s annual Halloween party! The halls were decorated with spider webs, pumpkins, and ghosts and classic Halloween tunes were played to set the mood.  The after-school program’s high school group helped decorate and even created a haunted house!

The exciting evening included face painting, mask decorating, trick-or-treating throughout AFG, a haunted house, a mummy wrapping contest, and more!

The trick-or-treat trail was full of surprises. Throughout the trek, the trick-or-treaters walked through spooky halls, climbed under spider webs, and braved the haunted house! At the end, there were some fun games to get extra treats. One of those games was a punch board, created by the high school group, where the girls had to punch through the paper to get a surprise toy or candy!

The girls munched on spooky cupcakes and marshmallow eyeballs and counted how many pieces of their favorite candy they got. At the end of the night, all of the girls left with smiles on their faces, recounting the nights’ fun.

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank everyone who donated candy, toys, and snacks for the trick-or-treaters. Happy Halloween!

September Volunteer Spotlight: Jamie Duell

Oct. 13 2016 | Tags: , ,

Each month, Alternatives For Girls’ Volunteer Department highlights one volunteer who AFG staff recognize as being a dedicated and passionate volunteer. September’s volunteer spotlight features Jamie Duell, a mentor for AFG’s Asset-Building Project. Jamie has been volunteering for about a year and will soon be celebrating her one-year mentor anniversary with her mentee. When we spoke with Jamie recently, we asked her a few questions about her experience volunteering and the positive relationship she has been able to form with her mentee.

Why did you decide to be a volunteer at AFG? 

I wanted the opportunity to influence young women and girls. I don’t have a large family in Detroit so the opportunity to interact with young people in a positive way is something that I have to deliberately seek out.

What is your greatest strength? And how does it help you when you as a volunteer?

My greatest strength is that I understand how important relationships are to our well-being and I bring that into my interactions with my mentee. My mentee has many positive influences in her life so I feel like I am adding one more layer to her support system.

What is your goal in being a volunteer?

I want to build on my mentee’s strengths and help her in any areas that she wants to grow. I also want to be one more person that my mentee can look to for social support. I remember being her age and that it wasn’t always easy. I think that having more people to rely on is a wonderful thing for a girl.

What has been your proudest moment as a volunteer?

One day I took her to Wayne State where I am studying so that we could explore the campus and hang out in the student center. I was really proud of her when she decided to interview some students about what their career plans were, and why they chose their majors. That day I wasn’t really sure of what we should do but it turned out that leaving things a little unstructured led to a great opportunity for her to practice her interviewing skills and learn more from others.

How do others view you as a role model?

I think we are all role models in different ways. I try to be honest with my mentee about the things I am trying to improve and myself but also the things I think are my strengths. I hope this will give her an example of how to strive without needing to be perfect.

Is there anything else you would like to add regarding volunteering?

Being a mentor has been a really rewarding experience. It is something that I think other women should consider. If you have the time and energy to take on the commitment I think you should really consider it.

Thank you, Jamie, for the support and guidance you have provided your mentee! 

Interested in mentoring? Please contact Jenny Clement, Volunteer Services Manager, at 313-361-4000 x248 or to discuss the next steps to becoming a mentor.

Rise N’ Shine End of Summer Finale: 50 girls show their friends and family what they’ve learned at AFG this summer

Sep. 1 2016 | Tags: , , , , ,

In August, the Alternatives For Girls Rise N’ Shine summer camp came to an end. The 50 campers celebrated their memorable summer with a fun end of summer finale. Rise N’ Shine is a free six-week summer camp that gives girls living in southwest Detroit a safe space to learn new things, improve their reading skills, and make friends. For three days each week, the campers spend the day participating in fun, educational workshops. This summer, workshops included: gardening, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), swimming, cooking, and more.

Reading and Gardening and Swimming, Oh My!

When asked what she enjoyed most at Rise N’ Shine this summer, 5-year-old Kimora’s answer was pretty broad as she giggled, “EVERYTHING!” Some of the campers were a bit more specific about the fun they had. When we asked 7-year-old Kai about her favorite Rise N’ Shine activity her eyes lit up as she smiled and replied, “Swimming class at the YMCA! I got to jump into the pool.” Many campers also liked S.T.E.A.M. class. When asked what she liked best about it, one camper answered, “I like that we could use our imaginations to create things.” Yareli, 8, was happy to share her favorite things about Rise N’ Shine, “I loved the field trips and meeting new friends!”

Youth Leaders help girls Rise N’ Shine

The campers all agreed that their youth leaders were an important part of the camp and helped to make it fun. Zahraa, a 15-year-old youth leader, enjoyed her summer with the girls from Rise N’ Shine. When recalling some of her favorite moments, she said, “I enjoyed spending time with the girls. I really liked it when we went to Carhartt to sell bath bombs [as part of an entrepreneur workshop hosted by the Carhartt Emerging Leadership Team]. The girls were really happy because they made a lot of money in sales.” Zahraa was one of 12 youth leaders from the Grow Detroit Young Talent Program. Juanita, 18, was another youth leader. She said that being around the girls this summer made her realize that working with children is her passion, “This is what I want to do,” she smiled.

Celebrating a summer well spent

The Rise N’ Shine Finale wraps up the fun of summer and allows the campers’ families to see what they have been busy with while at AFG. The finale kicked off with a performance from the 9 – 11 year old group. Throughout the summer, they completed a workshop with Matrix Community Theater and the girls wrote and produced an 8-page play! Their hard work and practice paid off once they were able to perform their masterpiece for friends and family. Judging by the laughter and applause, the audience thoroughly enjoyed their creativity and performance!

Next, the girls in the 7 – 8 year old group took the stage to read the stories that they wrote this summer while in their Literacy Exploration Workshop. The reading and writing activities were popular with the campers. Kai noted writing as a favorite activity, “I liked writing in my gardening journal. We wrote about gardening stuff like flowers.”

The audience then enjoyed poetry with a theme, “Inner Strength” from the 12 – 14 year old group, also a product of their Literacy Exploration Workshop. Each of the girls took to the mic to read poetry to the audience, some choosing to recite in both English and Spanish.

Then the 7 – 9 year old group entertained the audience with a lip sync battle! Two teams, the pink team and the black team, danced and lip synced along with their youth leaders. The winners were determined by applause and, though it was a close call, the pink team came out on top!

Goodbye for now…

After some special acknowledgements and awards, the youth leaders got together to put on a lively dance performance to Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)”. The campers loved it! Finally, certificates and yearbooks were distributed. In the end, there were a lot of smiles and hugs as the girls signed each other’s yearbooks and waved goodbye for now. All of the campers seemed to agree on what they will miss most now that Rise N’ Shine is over for another year; their new friends! 8-year-old Yareli thought for a moment, then motioned toward the two little girls sitting with her and said, “I’m going to miss my best friend and my other best friend.”

When asked what she would miss the most when Rise N’ Shine ended, 5-year-old Kimora’s answer was the same as when we asked her what she enjoyed most. She once again giggled, “EVERYTHING!”

Rise N’ Shine Connects Girls to Community: New workshop allows campers to discover literacy options in their neighborhoods

Aug. 5 2016 | Tags: ,

This month, Alternatives For Girls’ Rise N’ Shine summer camp began! The free, six-week summer camp gives girls living in southwest Detroit a safe space to learn new things, improve their reading skills, and make friends! For three days each week, the campers spend the day participating in fun, educational workshops. This summer, workshops include: gardening, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), swimming, cooking, and more.

What’s in my ‘hood?

New to Rise N’ Shine this summer is “What’s in my ‘hood?” The workshop focuses on the literacy opportunities available to the girls in their communities. The goals of the workshop are to get the girls more involved in literacy, to make reading fun, and allow them to be creative along the way.

To get familiar with their neighborhoods, the group did community mapping to find school libraries, local book stores, and public libraries near them. Once they found the literacy options, they took field trips to visit the locations and get familiar with them. They have also completed creative writing exercises to develop their writing skills!

Making an Impact

During the third week of the workshop, the group visited Sit On It Detroit. The organization creates benches out of reclaimed wood for bus stops throughout the city. The girls produced their own Alternatives For Girls bench that now sits outside of AFG!

The bench the girls created includes a shelf under the seat, which will be used as a free library. Free libraries allow people to make their own libraries and promote reading in their neighborhoods. Typically in a public area, the libraries are housed in benches or shelves. Those in the community can borrow and return books to the library at their leisure.  “The project [with Sit On It Detroit] was completed so that the youth could see the work behind producing a library bench and how libraries don’t have to always be inside of a building,” Rita, an AFG intern from Wayne State University and one of the leaders of the workshop, explains.

“What’s in my ‘hood?” has allowed the girls to be more engaged in reading and to see the fun it brings. Rita hopes that after the summer is over, the girls will leave with the desire to continue to promote literacy wherever they go, “If they see a need, they have the strength, skills, and knowledge to do something about it.”

The Trip of a Lifetime: Six girls from AFG’s Adventure Club return from Guatemala and share their experiences

Jul. 6 2016 | Tags: , ,

Thanks to the support of AFG’s generous donors, six girls from AFG’s Adventure Club took a trip to Guatemala this month! During their adventure, the group spent time volunteering at a local school. They also took a quick, deep dive into Guatemalan culture and history.

A Brand New Adventure

The trip lasted eight days and included two days of traveling. The group stayed at Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) home base in Tecpán, Guatemala. CCS runs volunteer programs all over the world and provides a safe home base for their volunteers. Stephanie, one of girls who went on the trip, loved staying at CCS, “You could play outside! It had a basketball court; you could play soccer, basketball, and volleyball.”

Each day, the girls volunteered at a local school. They taught English to 2nd-5th grade students and painted murals in the yard. “My favorite volunteer project was teaching English. It was fun showing them and seeing them trying to speak English and their reactions to the words, too,” Stephanie shared. Luzelena, who also went on the trip, enjoyed getting to know the students at the school, “The kids at the school were so loving and nice,” she shared.

A Whole New World

Besides volunteering, the girls were able to learn a lot about Guatemalan culture and history. Some activities they did were: a tour of a local coffee plantation, weaving, pottery, and ceramic lessons, swimming in Lake Atitlan, and much more! “I liked making the pottery,” Luzelena shared. “They got their own rocks and they showed us how to crush and wet it to make into clay. Then the lady made some and we got to make our own little cups!”

Throughout their adventure, each girl got a first-hand look at a culture different from their own, “Here [in the US] it’s so much easier. It’s been modified to make everything easier and there [in Guatemala] it’s harder and takes longer to do everything,” Luzelena remembers. Stephanie agrees, “The clothes were way different!”

One thing is sure; their trip to Guatemala has given them the confidence and desire to travel more in the future! “I would like to go where it is way different than here. I want to go to places that don’t use technology a lot or have big sky scrapers and buildings,” Luzelena dreams. “Like Africa!” Stephanie adds.

After-school Program Finale: AFG’s Prevention Department celebrates a year of learning, growing, and making positive choices

Jul. 6 2016 | Tags: ,

This month, the AFG After-school Program held its annual year end finale. Held at AFG, the event was for the family and friends of the girls in the program. The evening included dance performances, handmade ice cream from the elementary group, awards for the parents, and a celebration of the girls’ achievements throughout the year.

AFG’s After-school Program aims to keep girls engaged in school by supporting their academic success through a variety of workshops. The program provides homework help, educational workshops, and leadership development. It also offers chances for girls to express their creativity through activities they may not otherwise have the chance to participate in, such as dance classes, arts & crafts projects and more.

Learning to Grow

For four months, the middle school group studied Mexican Folklórico dance with America Del Real, of The Raiz Up hip-hop and cultural collective. To prepare for their finale performance, the young women dressed in traditional clothing and got their hair and makeup done by two volunteers. They performed two dances, “Las Chiapanecas” and “El Aguila Blanca”. After each dance, the girls were met with a standing ovation and praises from the crowd.

The high school group performed an original dance routine they choreographed with Sarah Guilmette, Artistic Director of Full Circle Dance Company. Although the interpretive dance was new to Sarah, the group worked together to create a beautiful and moving performance.

The elementary group used their science and business skills to help give back to the community. The group set up a station where they sold homemade ice cream sundaes. The money raised will be used to complete a Hashtag Lunchbag project, where the girls will make bagged lunches with inspirational messages and pass them out to those experiencing homelessness in the community. The girls hand shook each batch of ice cream, filled them to the brim with toppings, and served each sundae with a huge smile!

Celebrating Accomplishments

During the awards presentation, two parents were given special awards to honor them for their volunteerism and assistance with programming. The two mothers were presented with flowers and were thanked by staff and girls in the programs through a big round of applause. Finally, the girls and young women received their own awards, to recognize them for their hard work and growth throughout the year. Each girl received their certificate with pride. Whether it was improving their grades, making a new friend, or learning something new; they all had something to be proud of this year.

We’re Going to Guatemala: Six girls from AFG’s Adventure Club are taking a one week trip to Guatemala

Jun. 2 2016 | Tags: , , ,

Thanks to the support of AFG’s generous donors, including the Born and Raised Detroit Foundation, six girls from AFG’s Adventure Club are traveling to Guatemala this June! The Adventure Club allows young women in AFG’s Prevention programs to have experiences in nature, which aren’t typically available to them in their urban neighborhoods. In the past, Adventure Club trips have included rustic camping, skiing, and a trip to Costa Rica.

Preparing for the Trip of a Lifetime

The girls, all between the ages of 11-14, were chosen because of their improved or high GPAs. Four girls had 4.0 GPAs and two had improved their GPAs by 1.0 or more! “When I found out I was going on the trip, I was excited! I haven’t been to Guatemala and I’ll get to see new stuff that is different than in the US,” Stephanie, one of the girls taking the trip, shares.

This month, the girls and their parents started working with AFG staff to begin preparing for the trip. During their meetings, the group talked about travel vaccinations, etiquette abroad, their itinerary, and more. While on the trip, the young women will enjoy local cuisine, shop at nearby markets, visit Mayan ruins, engage in local volunteer projects, go hiking, swimming, and so much more! “I am looking forward to getting to know the different cultures and the landscapes,” Luzelena dreams.

A Whole New World

Through this experience the girls will experience many new things. Four of the young women have never been on an airplane before!  The goal of the trip is for them to return with a love for learning, a passion for giving, and the confidence needed to live outside of their comfort zones. To follow the girls on their journey, make sure to follow Alternatives For Girls on Facebook and Twitter and to sign up for our e-newsletter!