10 2 / 2012

One of the greatest programs Girls Inc. has to offer to the greater Jacksonville area is their GirlSTART program, which was briefly mentioned in a previous post.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a short amount of time with some of our girls at the Arlington Heights Elementary school here in Jacksonville. As I walked up to the group of beautiful girls, all with smiling faces, I quickly realized just how important programs such as GirlSTART were to these young girls. 

This being my first visit I was not expecting such a warm welcome, but I was greeted with open arms. Each girl gladly ran up to me and said hello and introduced themselves! I was very surprised with how outgoing each and everyone of them were.

I first sat down with Victoria and Angie to ask them what they thought about their after school program. Angie started out with, “today is my birthday!!!!” so that was our ice breaker which allowed them to immediately open up to me. 

Angie and Victoria both explained how they loved GirlSTART because of the friends they have made and the many things it has taught them. Victoria explained, “I don’t like bullies and GirlSTART helps teach us how not to be bullies” which I thought was a very interesting comment coming from a six year old. A large problem our society faces today is when children are in school or even out of school they are not protected from “bullies” and according to Victoria she likes that GirlSTART leads them in the directions of respecting and being kind to those around them. 

Another great aspect of GrilSTART is the various things that it teaches the girls after school hours. Angie told me about learning how to sign, she said, “we use colors to learn how to sign and that is one of my favorite things to learn here” once again I feel like there are certain things, such as sign language, that not every child has the opportunity to learn while in school. GirlSTART allows our girls to expand their curriculum and continue their learning experience through our programs. 

Hands on programs are extremely beneficial to children at such young ages because their brains are like sponges waiting to soak up all the knowledge we provide them with. As Victoria and Angie would agree, GirlSTART allows girls of young ages to “hang out with friends, learn new things, get messy and get exercise” without programs like these our girls might not get these opportunities. 

So I can close with a quote from little Miss Victoria which sums up what we strive for in GirlSTART; “I LOVE LEARNING!” 



08 2 / 2012

Girls Inc. of Jacksonville has recently started a new program at Arlington Heights Elementary where girls in grades K-2 are getting the opportunity to participate in the growth and up keep of an organic garden.
The organic garden is a multi-sensory learning experience for the girls at Arlington Heights. The purpose of the garden is to teach the girls where food comes from as well as the process of how it gets from the garden to their table at home. In addition to teaching them the basics of how the garden works it will also give the girls an opportunity to learn what it takes to nurture something and see the positive growth because of their hard work and care.
Christina Nicolaides, Arlington Heights Kindergarten Coordinator explains that the garden is teaching the girls many different aspects of education but at the same time it is reinforcing lessons that have already been taught. When talking to Nicolaides about the program she said, “I am thrilled to give our students this opportunity to get their hands dirty in a garden and learn about health living at its roots because a number of our students do not have an area to garden in their own home.”
Girls Inc. has partnered with a number of people in an effort to get the organic garden started.
Arlington Heights Elementary is hosting this program as well as supporting and helping maintain the garden. The school “hopes that over time the garden will thrive and become a valued teaching tool to educate our students and inspire a new green curriculum.”
Tree Hill Nature Center and the Arlington Community Garden, two additional partners, will provide a six-week gardening course to the student so that they can better understand the gardening process.
Carmen Franz, an organic gardener from the University of North Florida, is also donating her time and service to this program. The students at Arlington Heights Elementary will soon take a field trip to the University of North Florida to see how an actual organic garden is taken care of.
Franz, with the help of the University of North Florida, will also donate transplant plants to the girls at Arlington Heights Elementary so that they can put them in their new garden. She told me that “starting kids at a young age is a great way to start a healthy lifestyle” and she hopes that the girls can really learn from this experience.
When we went to visit the site of the new garden last week I got the opportunity to speak with some of the girls about their new garden and what they were most excited about. Victoria told me that “she just loves learning” and the new garden “would teach her how to plant healthy stuff.” Angie, had a completely different take on the garden, she said “I can’t wait to get mud on my hands because I can’t do that at home!” All the girls were extremely excited about their new garden and the new things it will teach them!
Girls Inc. of Jacksonville is currently seeking more funding for programs such as the organic garden so that they can continue to expand on these efforts.
Written by: Sloane Ward, Girls Inc. of Jacksonville PR Intern

08 2 / 2012

Girls Inc. of Jacksonville hosts an after school program called GirlSTART. GirlSTART Program is an after-school literacy program designed to increase the literacy skills, self-esteem and success of kindergarten, first and second grade girls. The goals of the program include; improving girls’ reading ability, with a majority achieving grade-level or higher as well as improving girls’ attitude toward learning.

Arlington Heights Elementary GirlSTART Program

08 2 / 2012