One hundred percent of high school seniors participating in programming at Girls Inc. of Chattanooga over the past eight school years enrolled in college. In most cases, they finished their undergraduate degrees in four years. And often they went on to advanced degrees or professional positions.
Read those previous sentences again. And marvel.
Participants in Girls Inc. are not likely to attend local private schools, drive their own new cars to meetings or to be trust fund daughters, either. The organization began 56 years ago to support, as it is termed on the Girls Inc. website, "underserved girls in Hamilton County." And it continues to support that community.
For the last eight-plus years, the president and chief executive officer of that organization has been Bea Lurie, who stepped down Friday.
We wish we could clone her success with "underserved" participants as well as with participants from well-to-do families across the community.
But Lurie's done more during her tenure. She also tripled the number of girls in the program, increased the funds raised, enhanced the professionalism of the staff and strengthened the organization's measurable outcomes.
She credits both her staff and the already-in-place support, preparation and expectations of the program for its success. There, participants learn about women's history, leadership, workplace development training and public speaking. They meet role models. They see what they can become and come to know the pitfalls keeping them from getting there. They put what they've learned into practice, and they become involved in projects to help the wider community.
Success, in turns out, begets success.
The Hamilton County Schools, organizations working with boys, and agencies dealing with youth in general should take a look at what Lurie has done.
It's not a matter of boys vs. girls or "underserved" vs. "served" communities, though. It's a matter of showing young people what's possible, giving them the tools, strengthening their resolve and helping them fulfill their potential.
Thank you, Bea Lurie, for your guidance of young women who can now be role models themselves.