Community News Local girls discover their own leadership potential

Community News Local girls discover their own leadership potential

March 14th, 2018 by Carson Cook in Community Metro

Girls Inc. participants Kezia King, Jael Jones, Jayla Watkins and MaKayla Craddock, from left, present their suggestions for the Brainerd neighborhood to the Chattanooga City Council. Brooke Satterfield, one of the local leaders with whom the girls worked, said they were nervous going in, but nerves quickly turned to excitement. "The girls realized 'The things that I say actually matter and I can make a difference,'" Satterfield said. (Contributed photo)

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

From left, Brooke Satterfield, MaKayla Craddock, Jayla Watkins, Kezia King, Jael Jones and O'Kitta "Summer" Elliott celebrate the girls' successful presentation to the Chattanooga City Council as part of their Discovery Leadership after-school program through Girls Inc. (Contributed photo)

From left, Brooke Satterfield, MaKayla Craddock, Jayla Watkins,...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

A group of elementary school girls discovered how their voice can make a difference after presenting their observations about the Brainerd community to the Chattanooga City Council earlier this year.

The group of 13 girls, ages 9 to 11, had participated in Discovery Leadership, a program run by Girls Inc. of Chattanooga. Last fall, the girls met after school at Brainerd United Methodist Church.

As part of the course on leadership, the girls took community walks, identifying the neighborhood's strengths along with potentials for improvement.

For example, the girls liked that the area had playgrounds and seemed to be family-friendly. However, they also noticed there was a problem with cars speeding, as well as a lack of sidewalks.

Jayla Watkins works with Detective Rebecca Crites as part of Girls Inc.'s Discovery Leadership after-school program. The program gave girls the opportunity to explore leadership through community action, working with leaders from around the city. (Contributed photo)

Jayla Watkins works with Detective Rebecca Crites as...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Councilman Russell Gilbert speaks with Discovery Leadership participant Jael Jones. Program instructor O'Kitta "Summer" Elliott said she was grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the girls lives, telling the story of one girl who asked for a navy blazer for Christmas because it helped her feel like a leader. (Contributed photo)

Councilman Russell Gilbert speaks with Discovery Leadership participant...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

In December, the girls presented their findings to an audience that included Chattanooga City Councilman Russell Gilbert, who represents District 5 where BUMC is located. Gilbert was so impressed that he invited them to speak to the entire city council, which they did in late January.

"The council was impressed with how they spoke, how they challenged us to do more in that area," Gilbert said.

The girls got a standing ovation, said O'Kitta "Summer" Elliott, instructor of the Discover Leadership program.

But the biggest show of support is only just now beginning, as the girls work with city officials to address some of the problems they identified.

Gilbert said stopping the rampant speeding is feasible, and he plans to address it moving forward. While the lack of sidewalks is more difficult to address because of limited funds, he said, Blythe Bailey, an administrator for the Chattanooga Department of Transportation, was also impressed by the girls' report, and will be meeting with them this semester to discuss future plans for sidewalks in the area.

The girls also decided they wanted to do something on their own, so this semester they will be working to build a Little Free Library in the neighborhood. The concept allows people to take or leave books as they please. City Hall and Girls Inc. have donated books to help, Elliott said.

"This is what I tried to reiterate to the girls: If there's something that you care about, something that you're passionate about, stand up for it, and there are people and resources in this community that will help you," said Brooke Satterfield, one of the local leaders with whom the girls worked as part of Discovery Leadership. Satterfield works with the Mayor's Council for Women.

"Our children are going to be our future, and we're leaving the city in good hands," Gilbert said.

Email Carson Cook at ccook@timesfreepress.com.


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