Girls Incorporated of Lakeland offers daily after school and summer programs for girls in grades K-12 in West Polk County. We inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through life-changing programs and experiences that equip them to overcome gender, economic, and social barriers. Our program incorporates learning into fun activities, while empowering our girls to reach their full potential and to understand, value, and assert their rights.
Board of Directors
PAL RIVERS POWELL
President & CEO
DEAN KIRKLAND MCMILLAN
CHRYSTAL MARTIN THORNTON
Kay Fields, President and CEO
Stacy Hickman, Program Operations Manager
Billy Shaw, Maintenance and Bus/Van Driver
Susan Linton, Tutorial Program Coordinator
Michael Taylor, Bus Driver
Deborah Broome, Program Instructor
Madisyn Ortiz, Program Instructor
Chandra Learns to Stand Tall and Speak Up
Chandra wishes she had started Girls Inc. in elementary school — recalling her middle school and high school years at Girls Inc. with much fondness. An alumnae of Girls Inc. of Lakeland in Florida, Chandra became involved thanks to friends who were part of the program and her aunt who was the executive director.
Now, an urban planning Director for her county, she draws on the many lessons learned during her time at Girls Inc. and the confidence she built that now translates into her career, every day.
“I learned to stand tall and speak up – literally. In my career as an Urban Planner, I often have to speak before crowds of people. Sometimes, the crowds are not happy about changes being proposed in their neighborhoods,” she continued. “It is vital that I stand tall and speak up so that I get my points across and that I ensure my audiences that I know what I am talking about.“
Being a part of a pro-girl environment also taught Chandra that “she never had to make excuses for being a girl or a woman.” Her field of work is male-dominated but she has fought for her right, and the rights of other women, to be a leading presence in the industry. During her time working she has seen more and more women starting their own construction companies and knows that these women are role models for young girls who dream of one day doing what they do.
Chandra has accomplished so much since her time at Girls Inc. She has worked for the county for 12 years, starting as an urban planner and after just three years advancing to Director. She credits the mentors in her life, starting at Girls Inc. and now at her job, who encouraged her to grow. Married and with two sons, she says that Girls Inc has even played a role in her children’s success, passing along much of what she learned at Girls Inc. to them.
I learned so much through Girls Inc. If I had to highlight a few, I would express how much Girls Inc. helped me with my confidence; to know that I owe no apology for being a girl or woman and that my body or gender doesn’t define me.”
Are you a Girls Inc. alumna? Share how Girls Inc. impacted your life and shaped who you are today. Tell us about your latest accomplishments and how you are inspiring other girls.
Girls Incorporated of Lakeland, formerly Girls Club of Lakeland, Inc. was founded in January of 1971. For the past 50 years, our mission of providing girls in grades K-12 in West Polk County a safe place to learn, play, and grow has not changed. Our beginnings were humble. Our program started in an old World War II army barracks that had been renovated too many times. The need for a program like ours in the Lakeland Community was evident and our enrollment expanded such that the old barracks could no longer support our program. After a successful million dollar capital campaign in 1987-1988, we moved into a new facility 5,000 square foot facility equipped with classrooms, a three workstation kitchen, a dance room, a large multi-purpose game room, a playground, and an outdoor swimming pool. The new facility greatly enhanced our ability to serve our community. In an effort to provide outreach programs to as many girls as possible, satellite programs were held either at local churches or in partnership with the Lakeland Housing Authority throughout the years.
In 2013, we expanded our services to Bartow and the neighboring communities when we purchased a vacated daycare facility. This location was viable until the pandemic came in March of 2020. The Girls Inc. facility in Bartow is presently for sale due to the pandemic and low enrollment.
In March of 2020, we were providing after school programming to our girls and their families one day and the next day, we had to shut down both of our facilities due to the Governor's order. The girls were sent home to do e-learning and we had to figure out how we could continue to be relevant in our work because the girls were not attending Girls Inc. So we immediately engaged in virtual activities to keep the girls and their families engaged. Every week we performed wellness checks-calling the girls to make sure they were alright. We provided them with meals and any other resources that we knew where available in the community. We were without the girls for two and a half months and primarily worked remotely from home.
In June of 2020, the Governor re-opened the state and we re-opened our doors to the girls in mid-June for an 8 weeks summer camp. We limited the amount of girls that could participate in summer camp due to COVID and us needing to take the necessary precautions to ensure that our girls, staff and families were safe. COVID precautions were put in place with no more than ten girls to each age group, restricted outside access to our building- including parents not being able to enter our facility, temperature checks of girls and staff before entering our facility along with requiring our girls to sanitize their hands when they arrived and social distancing. We were blessed to make it through the summer COVID free thanks to the cooperation of our girls, their families and our staff.
In the fall of 2020, many of our girls chose not to return to school and instead chose to continue with virtual learning. We pivoted in the fall and established an e-learning hub and many of our girls did their e-learning with us from 7:30-4 pm. daily and attended our afterschool program after their school day ended. In addition, for the girls who went back to in person learning, we continued providing afterschool transportation for them so they could attend our afterschool program and continued our COVID pre-cautions.
At the end of last school year, the Governor announced that everyone had to return to school in the fall of 2021 so we discontinued our e-learning hub at the end of the last school year. This past summer, we increased our capacity to serve more girls for the summer and continued to practice our COVID precautions. We had a great summer and the girls were able to return to some type of normalcy by having fieldtrips and swim lessons which they thoroughly enjoyed. Our afterschool program started in August of this year and our COVID precautions are still in place.
We are thankful that our parents continue to entrust their daughters in our care. Our level of quality programming for girls has not diminished. Our mission remains-inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.
Girls Inc. National Organization
- Girls Incorporated is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. With roots dating to 1864, Girls Inc. has provided vital educational programs to millions of American girls, particularly those in high-risk, underserved areas.Today, innovative programs help girls confront subtle societal messages about their value and potential, and prepare them to lead successful, independent, and fulfilling lives.
- The Girls Inc. movement started in New England during the Industrial Revolution as a response to the needs of a new working class: young women who had migrated from rural communities in search of newly available job opportunities in textile mills and factories.
- Our National Headquarters is in New York City, and our National Resource Center is located in Indianapolis. Girls Inc. programs are offered through a network of more than 1,000 sites in over 300 cities in the United States and Canada.