Girls Inc. designs Learning Academy to help members, families during pandemic

When the pandemic hit, the local Girls Inc. chapter had to rethink the way they could continue to deliver their mission of creating strong, smart and bold girls. In September, the nonprofit opened for a full-day Girls Inc. Learning Academy and after school programming.

Through continuously evaluating members’ needs, CEO Tish Correa Osborne said the staff is proud they found new and creative ways to serve not only the girls but also their families. 

Girls Inc. members could arrive beginning at 7:30 a.m. for the Learning Academy stay for programming until 5:30 p.m., and safety measures were put in place for members and staff.

In March, Girls Inc. went from fully in-person programming to completely virtual programming for several months. During that time, staff members were conducting wellness checks and food deliveries.

Through those interactions with the girls and their families the staff determined the greatest need was to find a way to provide in-person programming again so they could have a safe place for the girls to go while the parents returned to work. 

The Learning Academy was not budgeted nor anticipated. However, the Girls Inc. board of trustees and the staff fully supported the new venture and have continued to offer the Girls Inc. programming to members free of charge.

“Every member brings their school-issued device and is connected to our internet and is able to participate in their virtual learning from the safety of our building,” said Whitney Galloway, Executive Operations Assistant. “Staff are present to help girls stay on track and to help make sure their work is getting done.”

Technology personnel from both Owensboro and Daviess County public school districts helped Girls Inc. troubleshoot what was needed to make sure the academy students had reliable internet access.

“The Learning Academy was something we created because we kept hearing about the struggles of families, businesses, the teachers and the schools,” Correa Osborne said. “We saw kids sitting on sidewalks trying to access Wi-Fi to do their school work and we said, ‘no.’  We couldn’t live with our girls — and anyone else for that matter — being relegated to that scenario while we were all comfortable in our homes and/or at work.”

More than 21 schools from the local districts were represented in the Learning Academy, with many teachers contacting Girls Inc. directly to work with individual girls. On-site therapists have also been available for girls in the academy, along with yoga and dance instruction. 

“In this year full of frustrations, we have continued to celebrate our members and their accomplishments whenever possible,” Correa Osborne said. “Staff make sure members receive plenty of screen breaks, get to go outside and celebrate even minute accomplishments. Girls were celebrating by dancing to music when they turned in assignments, and the girls celebrate when Learning Academy ends and it’s time to transition into afterschool programming.”

Beginning this week, Girls Inc. has returned to hosting one-on-ones with members versus the academy out of precautions related to reported COVID-19 cases. Correa Osborne said that at this time, they are not sure if they will hold the academy next semester, but they will be talking to school officials and their families as well as the Girls Inc. board before making any decisions. 

Marlys Mason, Owensboro Times