When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” ~African Proverb
Crime, teen pregnancy, high school drop out rates, depression and substance abuse run rampant in the neighborhoods of the girls we serve. They are the poorest communities in the city. Growing up in environments like that greatly increase the risk of succumbing to numbing behaviors like higher rates of sexual activity, teen pregnancy, high school drop out, substance abuse, and depression.
Yet, girls in our programs have lower rates of pregnancy and higher rates of avoiding of sexual activity and substance abuse. The more time girls spend in Girls Inc. programs, the better. Girls who attend more hours of our programs have significantly better academic outcomes. In our high impact sites, girls show a significant improvement in science, math and English Language Arts.
Over 90% go on to college. Our STEM Programs, especially our new G3 Moody's Data Analytics program, the first of its kind in the nation, improves performance in math. Girls in this program showed significantly more improvement in math than others.
What's our secret formula? It lies in the ineffable, the intangible, in the mind-body connection.
Self-love is the cornerstone of our mind-body message. Self-love as in how you let yourself be treated, self-love, in learning to manage your thoughts and emotions like anger, because it will hurt you more than the person you think deserves it. We teach the self-love that goes with facing painful emotions, practicing mindfulness, eating things that are good for you, and exercising your body.
We teach girls that when you see the world through the eyes of self-love, you see a world that will be more welcoming, more helpful, more forgiving. If you love yourself, from the inside out, you have the self-respect, self-esteem, and confidence, qualities you bring to all you encounter.
We teach girls to ask themselves, what are my hurts, habits, and hang-ups? What do I bring to relationships and life situations? Without self-knowledge, there can be no growth. The ills of society and the situations that plague us are often due to a lack of reflection or willingness to do personal work. To know one's self is the most important part of being human because with self-knowledge comes compassion and integrity.
In today's fast-paced, digital world, children to grow up fast. In addition to growing up in poverty, the girls in our programs face peer pressure, teasing, poor grades, bullying, parental demands and too often domestic abuse or violence, all triggers of high levels of stress. Girls need coping skills, and mind-body practices that teach awareness and mindful movements that can reduce stress, offer playful opportunities for growth and learning and provide a foundation for a healthy life.
Mind-body practices like yoga and meditation, not only reduce stress, but studies in mental and spiritual healing show us that the mind can somehow bring about changes in our own bodies as well as the bodies of others far-away. These events, replicated by careful observers under laboratory conditions, strongly suggest that there is some aspect of the psyche that is unconfinable to points in space, such as brain or body, or to points in time, as in the present moment.
Becoming mentally and emotionally strong isn't something that happens overnight. But if we can help girls to start seeing every curveball life throws as a chance to practice being stronger, and give them the tools to do it, they will begin accruing wisdom and clarity that will put them on firm footing for a lifetime.