Alzale’a Braxton was thrilled to learn she’d been nominated as 2020 Girl of the Year – but she never dreamed she’d win. She’s clear, however, that Girls Inc. of Memphis changed the way she viewed the world and viewed herself.
“It opened me up and I became more of me,” said Alzale’a, a 17-year-old senior at Pathways to Education, whose name is pronounced “Azalea.” “It helped me learn what I wanted to do and what I could do for the community. And how to help myself.”
Alzale’a was exposed to Girls Inc. as a freshman at Pathways to Education, part of Girls Inc. of Memphis school-based programming. She was regularly invited to events, including joining the Youth Farm team on Saturday mornings at the Memphis Farmer’s Market. That experience had a profound impact. So profound, she decided to apply for the Farm Crew.
“I needed something more to do,” she said. “I wanted to get out of the house and I wanted to learn more.”
And she certainly did.
“We learned how to work the farm but also about healthy sexuality and entrepreneurship,” she says. “Stuff that they don’t teach in school but that you need.”
She is adamant that being on the farm crew is about more than dirty hands.
“At the farm, we grow our own food but we also have to sell it,” Alazle’a said. “We learn about being a cashier and about customer service. I’ve never been good at math, but I have more confidence in my ability to count and do math after my experience working at the Youth Farm.”
She also handles photography and social media for the Farm crew. She plans to attend the University of Memphis in the fall, majoring in early childhood education and minoring in photography.
For a young girl considering getting involved with Girls Inc., she says this.
“I would say, ‘Join and see why this needs to be in your life. It will help you learn and prosper.’ There are no words to explain it. The best way to learn is by experiencing it.”