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Forever Grateful: One young woman reflects on her struggles, and dreams for a brighter future

Oct. 1 2018 | Tags: , , ,

On September 25th, Jackie, an AFG Shelter resident, gave this speech at the Positive Choices, Powerful Lives event. 

Before I came to Alternatives For Girls, me and my daughter were staying with my mom. We weren’t seeing eye to eye, so I decided to leave to avoid further conflict. For a few months, we were staying with family and friends. I didn’t have a sense of direction. I was doing just enough to get by. Basically, I really wasn’t trying. I was homeless, unhappy, stressed, depressed, jobless, out of school, drinking every day, smoking. But one thing I always did was no matter what state of mind I was in, I was a phenomenal mom to my daughter. I made sure that my baby had what she needed.

I knew I had to make a change, for me and my daughter. I went to the Detroit shelter referral center, where you have to go to be referred to a shelter, and two hours later I was at AFG moving in. AFG is perfect fit for me. It’s clean, and I’m big on clean by the way. They helped me with literally everything and I’m forever grateful. I came to AFG with the clothes on my back, nothing else. They took me and my daughter shopping and bought us clothes. They took us to get our social security cards and birth certificates. Two weeks later, a staff member helped me enroll in school, where I am finishing earning my high school diploma and plan to graduate this December.

Shortly after, I began working as a youth leader, for pay, in AFG’s summer camp for younger girls, called Rise ‘N Shine.  I learned how to work with children. I never had a job like this before. The kids loved me and looked up to me. So I had to set a good example for them to follow.

Since I’ve been at AFG, I learned that every situation does not need a reaction. I’ve learned how to save money and how to make an affordable budget.  I’ve learned how to speak and dress for interviews. I’ve also learned a lot of things in our parenting classes. They taught me how to calm a child down when she is having a temper tantrum, and how to eat healthy and teach my daughter healthy eating habits.

My plans for the future are to make sure I graduate high school and pick a career suited for me. I also plan to have a place for me and my daughter and reliable transportation for us. I can just imagine us riding our bikes down the street together. It’s a must that I further my education and my daughter does as well. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in. Thank you!

Rise N’ Shine Finale

Aug. 31 2018 | Tags: , , , , , ,

On August 16th, AFG’s Rise N’ Shine summer camp came to an end. 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 and field trips. This summer, workshops included: gardening, dancing, science, and more.

The 74 campers celebrated their memorable summer with a fun end of summer finale. The finale allows the camper’s families to see what they’ve learned and created throughout the summer. The excitement was kicked off with a performance from the 7-9 year old group. Throughout the summer, they completed a dance and movement workshop with ArtLab J and had a blast learning the choreography for the dance. Their hard work and practice paid off once they were able to perform their masterpiece for friends and family. Judging by the applause, the audience thoroughly enjoyed their performance!

That wasn’t the only original performance of the day, the 9-11 year group and the 12-14 year old group also performed dances with the help of ArtLab J and Heritage Works, respectively. The latter group wore traditional outfits and danced along to the drum beat to deliver a fun and energetic performance that was definitely a crowd favorite. The final performance of the day was from the 9-11 year old group and 12-14 year old group. The groups worked with Matrix Theatre to create an empowering performance using voice and movement.

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. Before leaving, Anahi reflected on her summer at AFG, “My favorite part of Rise N’ Shine is meeting friends.” Vanessa agrees, and adds, “Don’t forget about the fieldtrips! My favorite one was the water park!”

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank all of the volunteers and donors who supported Rise N’ Shine this summer. Thank you for making it a summer the girls will never forget!

AFG Hires 20 Young Women Through Grow Detroit’s Young Talent Program

Jul. 27 2018 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

This summer, Alternatives For Girls (AFG) has hired 20 young women to work as Rise N’ Shine Youth Leaders as well as Peer Educators through Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT) program! GDYT is a city-wide summer job and training program that employs young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 for six weeks each summer. This summer, GDYT has matched over 8,000 young adults from Detroit with jobs all over the city!

The young women employed at AFG participate in weekly trainings, both with AFG and with the GDYT program, on topics such as conflict resolution, financial literacy and more. These topics help prepare them for issues they may face on the job, while also helping to improve and increase valuable employability skills, such as time management. “I’m pretty organized, but learning about time management has helped me with getting up and getting to work on time. I’ve learned I have to think about whether there will be traffic and if I should leave early that day,” shares Casey, 16, one of the young women working as a Peer Educator in AFG’s Outreach Department this summer.

Mikaela, also 16, is one of the young women from the GDYT program who is a Rise N’ Shine Youth Leader. Youth Leaders assist AFG staff in running the Prevention Department’s annual Rise N’ Shine summer camp. The camp, for girls between the ages of 4-14 living in Southwest Detroit, is designed to allow the participants to learn new skills, improve their literacy, and make new friends, all in a fun and safe environment.

This is Mikaela’s third summer as a Youth Leader, “I like to work with kids, so when I first heard about the job it sounded fun,” she says. A typical day for the Youth Leaders starts at 8am with breakfast. Working with AFG staff, the Youth Leaders help prepare and serve breakfast, check each camper in as they arrive, and then get the girls ready for their first workshop of the day.  Some of the workshops this year include dancing, STEAM, and gardening.  After guiding the participants to their workshops, the Youth Leaders provide support to each workshop facilitator by taking participants to the bathroom, running errands, and making sure each girl is fully participating and having fun. “One of the new skills that I’ve learned working with the girls this summer is that you have to be very patient. If they are upset, if you listen to them, it helps calm them down,” Mikaela says.

Last year when Casey was in the GDYT program, she was also a Rise N’ Shine Youth Leader. But this summer, she is working as a Peer Educator, “I really like it!” Casey shares. As a Peer Educator, Casey helps conduct Street Outreach with AFG staff and facilitates workshops to other young women on topics that affect them. For example, this month, they created and facilitated a workshop on child safety for the mothers in AFG’s shelter. During Street Outreach, Casey and the other Peer Educators visit local parks and recreation centers to reach out to girls and women who might need help or someone to talk to. “We tell them about what AFG does and share hotlines or resources if they need it,” Casey says.

Of course, as with any job, the young women have faced challenges as well. “One of the hardest parts of my job has been working with new people and learning how to work well with them,” Mikaela says. But despite these learning experiences, each young woman has made many memories, “We helped with a workshop for younger girls about bullying, and I noticed a couple of the girls were having a hard time understanding. I went over and helped them understand how you can prevent bullying and step in to help someone. It was great,” Casey smiles.

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program for providing funding for this summer’s Rise N’ Shine Youth Leaders and Peer Educators!

Goodbye for Now: Rise N’ Shine finale marks end of 6 weeks of fun, learning, and so much more

Aug. 31 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

On August 18th, AFG’s Rise N’ Shine summer camp came to an end. 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, and field trips. This summer, workshops included: gardening, dancing, science, and more.

A Place to Learn

When we asked Melanie, a first time camper, what her favorite thing about Rise N’ Shine was, she had a hard time narrowing it down. “Everything! The people, the food, the activities. Everything was great!” For Mia, a second-time camper, the workshops were the high point of the summer, “I loved the nutrition workshop. We did a lot of cooking and learned about a lot of foods. We even made our own butter!” Other favorite workshops included gardening and STEM with Madonna University. “We learned a lot about science, like how caterpillars turn into butterflies,” Melanie exclaimed.

There was a lot of learning going on outside of the workshops, as well. “I learned that it’s good to be with strangers because you can get to know them and become good friends. That’s what I did this summer, and I learned a lot about different cultures!” shared Melanie. Mia agreed, “I learned about teamwork and how to make friends.”

Time to Celebrate

The 60 campers celebrated their memorable summer with a fun end of summer finale. The finale allows the camper’s families to see what they’ve learned and created throughout the summer. The excitement kicked off with a performance from the 7-9-year-old group. Throughout the summer, they completed a workshop with Matrix Theatre Company and wrote their own original 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!

That wasn’t the only original play of the day, the 9-10 year group and the 10-11-year-old group also performed plays that they wrote with Matrix Theatre Company. The latter group performed a play titled “Pollution”, an inspiring tale of magical mermaids who helped save the earth from pollution. In addition to the plays, the Revamp workshop modeled the clothing they designed from recycled materials and fabrics and the Dance workshop performed an original dance number.

Goodbye for Now

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. Before leaving, Mia looked around the room and reflected on her summer at AFG, “I will always remember my friends. I’m going to miss coming here every day!” Serissa, a third-time camper, agreed and added, “Rise N’ Shine is a good place to be!”

Rise N’ Shine’s Mad Scientists: Madonna University students teach campers about science, and that anything is possible

Aug. 1 2017 | Tags: , , , ,

On July 11th, 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, make friends, and have fun. For three days each week, the campers spend the day participating in fun, educational workshops, and field trips. This summer, workshops include dance, arts and crafts, gardening, cooking, and more.

One exciting new workshop this summer is being led by six young women who are students from Madonna University. The group is teaching the campers about all the different areas of science and the many different science career paths. Each of the Madonna students is studying science and majoring in either Biology or Forensic Science. “We really want to give the girls glimpses of different areas of science – biology, geology, chemistry, forensics,” explains Bianca Hasani, one of the workshop facilitators.

So far, the group has covered the scientific method, DNA sequencing, how to use a microscope, the life cycle of a butterfly, and more. One week, the girls started their own experiment, growing a sunflower from a seed, using the scientific method. Jessica Peg, another facilitator, explained, “We did some activities, like [growing] the sunflowers, so that they could watch the progress and see them grow over just a few weeks.” Annett, a Rise N’ Shine camper in the workshop, has already learned so much, “We learned that caterpillars take three to five weeks to grow into a butterfly!” she exclaims.

When learning how to use the microscopes, the girls looked at different types of diseases and parasites. One camper told the volunteers that she had learned about parasites in school, but didn’t get to see it under a microscope. “I got to help her make the connection between that and what we were looking at. It was great,” shares Jessica.

Another goal of the workshop is to expose them to science based careers and show them that it is something they can pursue. “Since science and math are male dominated fields, we want to show them that girls can be scientists, too!” says Eunice Herman, another student. Bianca agrees, “We want to teach them that education is for everyone. We want to teach them that they can grow up to be a nurse, or whatever they want.”

Future activities will include building terrariums with succulents and some fun activities like making ice cream or slime. “I want to learn more about Forensic Science,” Annett smiles. For the young women leading the workshop, the best part is seeing the campers getting interested in science. Bianca explains, “My favorite part of teaching the girls is that I’m a role model for them. I’m getting them excited about science!”

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank the Madonna University students; Jessica Peg, Bianca Hasani, Eunice Herman, Kelsey Hanover, Sarah Knapp, and Nicole Carlin, as well as their Lead Professor, Veronica Riha, for spending their summer teaching the Rise N’ Shine campers all about science!

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.”

Volunteer Opportunities at Alternatives For Girls

Jun. 2 2016 | Tags: , , , ,

More than 300 volunteers give over 20,000 hours of their time and talents to Alternatives For Girls each year!  The programs provided for girls and young women at AFG could not be done without volunteers. For more information on our current volunteer opportunities and how to become a volunteer at AFG, contact our Volunteer Services Manager, Jenny Clement, at 313-361-4000 ext. 248 or volunteering@alternativesforgirls.org.  

 

Resource Center Volunteer

AFG’s Resource Center manages a walk-in center and a 24/7 crisis line for those in the community that are in crisis or in need of services. Volunteers will serve as a listening ear and a conduit of information about resources inside and outside of AFG. Volunteers will answer the phone and assist any walk-ins seeking assistance. Shifts are available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Evening shifts are preferred.

 

Mentor  

AFG’s Asset Building Project is a new program aimed at helping young women prepare financially, academically, and culturally for post-secondary education (read about it here in our Spring 2016 Newsletter). The program is in need of mentors to work with the middle school aged girls enrolled in the program. The mentor serves as a positive role model for their assigned mentee and will work to support, guide, and help her prepare for college. Mentors meet with their mentees a few times each month to engage in educational and recreational activities. Mentoring takes place during the evening or on the weekend. Spanish speaking mentors preferred. 

 

Rise N’ Shine Summer Camp Volunteers

AFG’s Rise N’ Shine summer camp is a free day camp for girls between the ages of 4-14 living in southwest Detroit. Rise N’ Shine provides fun and educational workshops, field trips, and more. Volunteer chaperones are needed to assist with Rise N’ Shine field trips with on Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 beginning July 7th.

Youth Leaders Help Girls Rise and Shine

Aug. 31 2015 | Tags: , , , ,

“During the field trip to Sky Zone, I remember thinking it would be impossible to get 70 girls to take their shoes off, put the socks on, and get ready to play. But we all worked together and we got it done,” Anna, a first year Youth Leader, remembers. Making the seemingly impossible happen isn’t in the job description for the Rise N’ Shine Youth Leaders, but it is definitely something they can now add to their resume. This summer, 25 Youth Leaders assisted AFG staff in hosting the Prevention Department’s annual Rise N’ Shine summer camp. The camp, for girls between the ages of 4-14  living in Southwest Detroit, is designed to allow the participants to learn new skills, improve their literacy, and make new friends, all in a fun and welcoming environment.

The Youth Leaders, all between the ages of 16-24, had to have a 2.5 or higher Grade Point Average, be currently enrolled in school, and possess leadership skills to be hired for the job. “I decided to apply to become a Youth Leader because I love working with kids and being a mentor to them,” Kiara, another first year Youth Leader, shares. In addition to receiving a weekly stipend, the Youth Leaders also participated in weekly trainings on topics such as CPR/First Aid, conflict resolution, financial literacy and more. These topics prepared them for issues they may face during the camp while also helping to improve and increase valuable employability skills, such as time management. “Getting the girls from being active to having to sit down and eat lunch was hard, but learning to manage my time made it easier,” Anna shares.

A typical day for the Youth Leaders started at 8am with breakfast. Working with AFG staff, the Youth Leaders helped prepare and serve breakfast, check each camper in as they arrived, and then got the girls ready for their first workshop of the day. Some of the workshops this year included cooking, arts and crafts, reading, chemistry, and gardening. After guiding the participants to their workshops, the Youth Leaders provided support to each workshop facilitator by taking participants to the bathroom, running errands, and making sure each girl is participating and having fun. “Participating in the workshops with the girls inspires them to get more involved, talk about what they are learning, and come up with ideas for things. It also makes them feel more at home,” Kiara explains. When it is time for lunch, Youth Leaders helped prepare and serve the food until it was time to take the participants to their afternoon workshops. At the end of the day, they helped serve a snack while checking out each girl as they leave to go home.

The fast-paced environment allowed each Youth Leader to work on the skills they learned during their trainings, such as communication. “I have improved my communication skills with the younger girls. Because they take everything literally, you have to be careful what you say so you don’t have a misunderstanding,” Kiara shares. Of course, challenges arose as well. One of the things the Youth Leaders had to overcome was learning how to work together as such a large team. “It was really interesting to see all the different sides of the other Leaders. It has been hard at times, but by the end, everyone was more comfortable and we all bonded,” Anna remembers, smiling. This teamwork allowed them to execute another successful, exciting summer of Rise N’ Shine.

2015 Rise N’ Shine Finale

Aug. 31 2015 | Tags: , , , ,

“One thing I’ve learned this summer is to be fearless!” Makhya, one of the 70 campers who attended Rise N’ Shine, AFG’s free summer camp, shares while smiling from ear to ear. Rise N’ Shine tends to have this effect on the girls, aged 4-14, who attend each summer. Between the fresh summer air, countless fun activities, and new friends everywhere you turn, Rise N’ Shine is a recipe for a fun summer vacation. Indeed, the fun is what brings girls back year after year and allows them to experience workshops like gardening, chemistry, cooking, dance, and much more.

The excitement is tangible as you walk into the room for the camp’s summer finale. Held at AFG on August 13, the finale highlights what the campers have learned and accomplished during the summer and allows them to share it with their family and friends, who are invited to attend. Before the program begins, the girls introduce their parents to the new friends they have made, the Youth Leaders who have been supervising their groups all summer, and the AFG staff members who made the whole summer possible.

Once the program begins, the crowd enjoys perfectly choreographed dances, beautifully arranged songs sung by the campers and the Youth Leaders, and two plays performed by the girls from the Turning Books into Plays workshop. The plays, “Cinderella” and “You and Me and Home Sweet Home”, were books the girls adapted into plays and practiced all summer long. After weeks of preparation and practice, each girl excitedly and enthusiastically preforms her parts and then bows to a round of applause once they finish. After the performances, each participant is recognized for her accomplishments in the award ceremony. The youth leaders call up the girls they helped supervise and proudly awarded them a certificate of competition.

Before it’s time to leave, each girl receives their own 2015 Rise N’ Shine yearbook. As they race around trying to get their friends, Youth Leaders, and workshop facilitators to sign their books, they take a break to talk about what they learned and what they enjoyed most this summer. “This summer I’ve learned to be kind, not disrespectful or rude,” one girl shares. Another camper agrees and adds, “I’ve learned how to be challenged by new things.” Of course, their favorite things about Rise N’ Shine are also the things they will miss the most, “I’m going to miss my friends and my Youth Leader!” JaMiah, a returning camper, shares. One thing all of the girls agree on, they can’t wait to come back next summer and do it all over again!

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank all of the volunteers and donors who made Rise N’ Shine possible this summer!