Girls Inc. Of Denver: Helping Girls Find Confidence And Strength

Feb 17, 2011 | Updated May 25, 2011

Girls Inc. of Metro Denver (GIMD) wants to empower girls. They want girls to feel good about themselves and achieve their goals. They want girls in positive environments and they want to make a difference in the community.

GIMD is one of 90 Girls Inc. chapters across the country. There are also six in Canada. The organization has its roots in a girls' club that was found in 1864 during the industrial revolution when girls went to urban areas to work. The group gained official status in the United States in 1945. The Denver chapter was founded in 1983 when there was a rise in teen pregnancies and the high school dropout rate was high. There was an opportunity to help girls and Girls Inc. took it.

This isn't a daycare or a place for a parent to keep their daughter for a few hours in the afternoon. This is an all-encompassing program that gives girls the attention that schools can't always offer. The teen program offers classes that teach culture, leadership, career and life planning and sexuality.

President and CEO of Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, Carol Bowar, sees the success of the programs every day. There are many girls that attend whose lives would be drastically different if they didn't have GIMD as an outlet. Bowar says that after girls have attended the program for a while, high risk behaviors go down, they report less fighting in school and higher self-esteem.

"For many girls, and on the broadest level, they find self worth, they find themselves, they know they are special because of who they are, not what they are, they discover or are reminded of what they bring to the world," says Bowar. "They know how to navigate the world and are great problem solvers. They are strong enough to ask for help; they know their future is up to them and they are ready."

GIMD also offers summer camp, which fills up very quickly. They haven't advertised the camp since 2003, since they already have such a high demand without advertising. The girls have a say in what programs will be featured during summer camp. One year, member expressed that they wanted to learn about other cultures, so Girls Around the World was created. The younger girls wanted to learn more about animals and how to properly care for pets. They created Healthy Pets and put together a dog daycare where they helped feed, walk and play with the dogs.

The Denver branch also offers $45,000 worth of scholarships each year for college-bound girls from the Helen McLoraine Scholarship fund. According to Bowar, many girls do stay in state, but there is a large minority who choose to go beyond Colorado and explore other states.

GIMD takes their programs out of the center and goes to high schools. In the past, they have taught comprehensive sexual education classes at area high schools, including South High. Sexual health classes are an important part of GIMD, which is why it is taught in house and at area high schools.

"Making powerful decisions... to use contraceptive methods if they are choosing to be sexually active first reduces their risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and also allows them to keep their focus on future goals, including graduating high school and becoming self sufficient production members of society. Our public schools systems generally provide little support in the area of comprehensive sexuality education, and certainly girls and young women are getting differing and perhaps limited or no information about their own sexual health at home or from other sources. We meet this need for girls to reduce the barrier toward their future."

Perhaps one of the most impressive programs at Girls Inc. is the ING-Empowered Investors. This group of teen girls uses money provided by ING to learn how to invest smartly. When the program is over, a large percentage of the investment goes to Girls Inc. and the rest goes back to ING to continue to help investing clubs reach their goals.

"As mentors and as parents, we all want the very best for our girls and for their futures.  We understand that they face social, legal and cultural barriers to success in life, no matter what type of home or community they come from. Girls Inc. of Metro Denver provides the space for girls to live, learn and grown with one another to understand who they are and what they need to be successful," says Bowar.

There are many ways to help Girls Inc. of Metro Denver. They take donations for art supplies, DVDs, office supplies, games and much more. Check out the wish list on the website. You can also apply to be a volunteer through the website.