Girls Inc. gears up for busy school year

Girls Inc. of Pinellas is dedicated to empowering girls through academic enrichment programs during the summer and after school.

Following a jam-packed summer, staff at Girls Inc. of Pinellas won’t get much of a chance to catch its breath as the school year starts Aug. 10.

That’s when the organization’s after-school program, “Discovering Women of Invention,” kicks off. The program runs through May 24, the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

The organization, designed to empower girls through academic enrichment including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), literacy, creative arts, healthy living and other curriculum, provides programming to young women in Pinellas Park and surrounding areas year-round.

This summer, Girls Inc. catered to 163 local girls, including a larger than normal group of teenagers, 13 to 16.

“We had pretty much a full house,” said Kathie Michael, community development coordinator.

The organization also partnered with a number of local businesses and groups to provide unique experiences and opportunities to the girls attending summer camp.

These partners include St. Petersburg College, Lockheed Martin, TechData, the University of South Florida’s marine sciences department, Home Shopping Network, the Tampa Bay Rays, All Children’s Hospital, the Florida Holocaust Museum, Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury, the Pinellas Park Police Department and the Pinellas Park Fire Department.

“Our instructors are wonderful, but they’re not experts in anything,” Michael said. “So it’s great to have these groups come out.”

Two years ago, the organization underwent renovations at its home base located at 7700 61st St. N. that inhibited the number of girls they were able to accommodate for their programming.

As a result, some parents put their children in other local programs, though Girls Inc. utilized space through Pinellas Park’s recreation department. So Girls Inc. has spent the past two years building its program back up to great success, Michael said.

“It was a challenge,” she said. “So it’s great to get back to what we do here.”

Girls Inc. has also recently received several grants from local organizations. In addition to $5,000 from the Rays and funds from the Pinellas County Foundation, it also received $87,000 from the Juvenile Welfare Board. This money was used to improve air conditioning and WiFi connection at their facilities.

While the organization always had a technology lab and laptops available for girls to check out, the number of computers used increased when the WiFi capability increased, Michael said.

“Now laptops are checked out all the time,” she said.

With two vans and a mini bus in its arsenal, Girls Inc. is able to pick up girls from the following schools to bring them to the after-school program: 74th Street Elementary, Bardmoor Elementary, Blanton Elementary, Classical Christian School, Cross Bayou Elementary, Dixie Hollins High School, Fitzgerald Middle School, Osceola Middle School, Pinellas Central Elementary, Pinellas Park Elementary, Pinellas Park Middle School, Pinellas Park High School, Plato Academy in Pinellas Park, Rawlings Elementary, Sacred Heart, Skyview Elementary, Southern Oak Elementary, Starkey Elementary and Walsingham Elementary.

In addition to registering girls for the after-school program, Girls Inc. is also currently selling tickets to its upcoming Father Daughter Ball, which is set for Sept. 11 at the Gulfport Casino.

The organization also has two fundraisers coming up. One is Tuesday, Aug. 29, at the Chipotle in the Shoppes at Park Place. Mention that you’re there to support Girls Inc. when ordering and they’ll receive 50 percent of the proceeds.

Then on Monday, Sept. 25, Girls Inc. is hosting a drag queen bingo fundraiser at Hamburger Mary’s in St. Petersburg.

“There are a lot of wonderful prizes,” Michael said. “And it’s an easy night out. It’s a lot of fun, but we’ll have you home by 9 p.m.”

The group is also actively seeking new board members. This past April, it introduced a new monthly Greet and Eat, where those interested in serving the organization in any way or donating to it can come by for lunch, a presentation and a tour.

“It’s a great way for us to connect with the community,” Michael said.

For more information about Girls inc., visit girlsinc-pinellas.org.