Rahni StewartIf you want to see the Girls Inc. Experience at work in the world, in one complete package, look no further than Rahni Stewart. A 2017 graduate of White Station High School, she's now wearing her Girls Inc. legacy proudly as a confident, well-spoken and curious freshman at the University of Houston. But one of the most profound expressions of her Girls Inc. identity happened not in a classroom or lecture hall, but during a late-night conversation with a new college friend.

"We were haning out late at night," said Rahni, who goes by Reece with her classmates at school. "I was on my laptop and she said, 'Reece, can I get birth control from Planned Parenthood?' It was her first boyfriend and they were becoming sexually active. So I thought, 'This is a teaching moment,' and I turned off my laptop, turned to face her and said, 'Tell me what happened.'"

She told her everything she knew about birth control and asked some more questions.

"I realized she had no context at all," Rahni said. "I talked to her about peer pressure, the side effects of birth control, what she should feel and shouldn't feel. And I said, "If you have any more questions, please come to me. Because I would rather you come to me and feel embarrassed than have you wind up in a situation you can't fix."

At first, her friend was indeed embarrassed and felt like like a burden. But she appreciated Rahni's willingness to help.

"I've always been naturally maternal," Rahni says. "And I've jumped in with friends on things I've gotten from Girls Inc. before, but never on that scale. That's what Girls Inc. helps with - the basic foundation of what should be happening."

That version of Rahni - the fearless advocate with a maternal streak - is no stranger to folks who've known her in recent years. She did, after all, represent Girls Inc. of Memphis in the summer of 2016 at a roundtable discussion about education hosted by the XQ Super School Project. She so impressed the staff they asked to interview her on camera (check out a clip of that interview.)

But that Rahni is a far cry from the shy, unsure third-grader who started Girls Inc. programming at South Park Center more than 10 years ago.

"Girls Inc. forced me to find my voice," Rahni says. "Without Girls Inc. I don't think I would be the person I am today."

And these days that person moves pretty fast. Rahni is a pre-business major on track for a double major in marketing and entrepreneurship. The Wolff Center for Entpreneurship at the University of Houston is ranked second in the nation.

"Basically, I'm training to be the CEO of something," she said. "“I want to open an education company that tracks the progress of students from sixth through twelfth grades and provides milestones for them to figure out what they want to do with their lives, and also allows students to virtually tour prospective college campuses from home. I can't say much more than that because the technology doesn't exist yet."

She's passionate about everything she does at school - from being part of an improv troupe to doing marketing and soliciting donations for her entrepreneurship club to relishing a care package (socks, Amazon gift cards, a water bottle and earbuds) sent by an acquaintance with the Memphis chapter of The Links, Incorporated who has been sponsoring Rahni since she was active in our Eureka! program. And let's not forget her classes.

"College is WILD," Rahni said. "I was struggling at first conceptually, but I'm on track now to make straight As."

And she still makes time to be there for her friend.

"Now she asks for all kinds of things," she said. "Basic relationship questions. How to have a conversation with her boyfriend. And now when something happens, or she has a question, she just walks in and says, 'Reece, we need to talk.'"

 

Girls Inc. of Memphis has made the local news twice in connection with plans to revive the South City neighborhood!

WMC Action News 5 produced a big picture piece about the South City Development Project, which will funnel $200 million of city and federal funds into the area that's home to Foote Homes and Booker T. Washington High School, where we founded a new Girls Inc. center last year. The piece touches on plans that would involve Girls Inc. moving into a renovated and much larger space in the now-shuttered Georgia Elementary School across the street. Click on the thumbnail below to check it out!

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And High Ground News published a story with more details about our plans for the space in Georgia Elementary. Click the thumbnail below to read!

High ground south city

Rebecka DevlinRebecka Devlin has keen insight into what the Girls Inc. Experience is all about. After all, she was once a girl herself.

“As a child I was raised by my father. He was a business owner and he wasn’t there much,” Rebecka says. “I often wonder how it would have been to have more of a support system in my life - to fill in the blanks, to fill in the gaps.”

That question is at the heart of her drive to support Girls Inc. of Memphis.

A Detroit native, Rebecka moved to Memphis in 2015 with her husband and son so she could take a position in Loan Operations at First Tennessee Bank.

“One way we connect at First Tennessee is through Employee Resource Groups (ERG) - sort of extracurricular activities at work,” she said. “There are groups focused on diversity, for working parents and for former members of the military.”

Rebecka serves as the community outreach chair for an ERG called the Women’s Initiative. Recently, the group shifted its focus from a broad range of community endeavors to just two non-profits - DeNeuville Learning Center and Girls Inc. of Memphis.

“We thought Girls Inc. was just doing amazing things,” Rebecka said. “The tag line for the Women’s Initiative is ‘Working together to promote the success of women within our company and our community.’ But I usually say, ‘Empowering women to become their most amazing selves.’

“And when it came to Girls Inc., we thought, ‘Why do we have to wait for girls to become women before we do that?’”

Clearly, Rebecka “gets” the mission of Girls Inc. But the perspective she brings is unique.

“Girls Inc. impacts girls from elementary school all the way through and beyond college,” she said. “And life is interesting during those years for girls. It’s a great support system.”

Fortunately for Girls Inc., it’s more than just talk with Rebecka. She’s a donor and encouraged a number of co-workers to sign up for the Mother-Daughter Tea earlier this year. In June, she and six other fellow First Tennessee employees welcomed and escorted guests at the Celebration Luncheon.

She spearheaded a donation drive at several First Tennessee financial centers. And she was instrumental in organizing and coordinating the first ever Strong, Smart and Bold Boutique, held recently at the administrative offices.

“For two weeks, my ERG collected women’s professional clothes at five Memphis sites,” Rebecka said. “We corralled everything together and brought it to the Girls Inc. offices and had a sorting party.”

Fifteen volunteers helped set up and run the boutique, which was promoted among First Tennessee staff, and Girls Inc. supporters and friends. For $25, boutique visitors received a reusable Girls Inc. bag and the chance to fill it with whatever clothing they could fit into it. Proceeds went to fund programs and the left over items were donated to the clothing program at Union Grove Baptist Church in Frayser.

For Rebecka, Girls Inc. is important because it provides support for girls from any set of circumstances.

“Every girl has her own story. But Girls Inc. seems to meet all of them where they are,” she said. “It’s this skeleton key of a program that fits every lock. It make me feel good that these girls have a place to go.”

 

 

2017 gradsCongratulations to the Girls Inc. of Memphis Class of 2017! Our just-graduated class of 28 seniors has made indelible marks on their schools, their communities and on our hearts. And they're ready for the world--look out!

This group of amazing young women has achieved firsts and set records that can't be ignored. For starters, 100 percent of the class graduated on time and all received college scholarships, four getting full rides. As if that weren't enough, those scholarship awards add up to a whopping $3,176,630! What's more, all 28 of these strong, smart and bold girls took part in the full five years of our Eureka! program. the first cohort to do so.

Pictured here are five of the grads: Trinity Worthy, Syreeta Jones, Arya Burney-Moorehead, JaSharra Cole and Jada Watson from our most recent Celebration Luncheon.

White Station graduate Rahni Stewart is one of the full-ride recipients, preparing to major in business entrepreneurship at The University of Houston, She's clear about what Girls Inc. and Eureka! have done for her and says that in her 10 years at Girls Inc. she was encouraged to dream and be confident.

"Joining Eureka just made me even more confident and allowed me to discover more career fields and opinions about what could be done. Girls Inc. taught me that there were and are no limits to what I am capable of and that the only thing I needed to do was to have a belief in.my.own abilities."

Now's also a good time to honor alums preparing for another semester in college, like the three  pictured at right at our Celebration Lunch in June: Asha' Lester, alums at lunchNicara Bailey and Jameka Hayes. Asha says Girls Inc. prepared her to excel in college - and to be able to hold down a job at Target while maintaining a 3.9 GPA.

"I apply the motto of being Strong, Smart, and Bold to my every day life," Asha' said. "I was bold enough to apply for an NAACP Executive Position last year and have maintained a spot, last year as Fundraising Chair and this year as Political Action and Juvenile Justice Chair, on the Exec Board for NAACP."

Nicara, another White Station grad, says that Girls Inc. instilled in her the importance of going to college. She would never have known about Xavier University, where she's a pharmacy student, if not for Girls Inc.

Likewise, Jameka says Girls Inc. expanded her college awareness. "They provided me with all the tools of success by connecting me with a mentor and providing me with an abundance of life preparation programs."

Speaking of full circle success, let's not forget Brooke Jones, an alum who is a Senior Engineer at FedEx and received our STRONG award at this year's Celebration Lunch. Check out this video of her speech from the event!

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Testimonials

I was very shy and didn’t speak to anyone or interact with others much. I love to read, have natural hair, have been called weird. I came to Girls Inc. and because I was accepted the way I am, I came out of my shell. I tried new things, I have found my voice. - Rahni


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Girls Inc. of Memphis
Administrative Office
910 Vance Ave.
Memphis, TN 38126
901-523-0217
 
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