Partnership between Girls Inc. and OPS providing opportunities for youth

Photo by Ryan Richardson.

Kaliyah Green, a 17-year-old junior at Owensboro High School, wants to be an actress and director. Girls Inc. helped Green find her passion for that. She’s just one example of the hundreds of girls empowered by the local youth development organization, and Girls Inc. plans to continue to expand their reach and programs.

Girls Inc. partners with numerous organizations in the community, and Executive Director Tish Osborne said the one with Owensboro Public Schools is one of the strongest. Osborne, Green and two other young girls who attend Girls Inc. addressed the OPS board members during their luncheon Thursday.

“I’ve worked with so many different superintendents and different board members through the years, and we’ve had different partnerships and arrangements, but I have never seen a more engaged board and staff in the community; it shows, and people notice it, and it’s making a difference in all the family’s lives,” Osborne said.

The two entities were recently able to further help one another, as Girls Inc. essentially took over the 21st Century grant that Estes Elementary School received a few years ago.

OPS Superintendent Dr. Matthew Constant said during the COVID-19 pandemic, OPS couldn’t physically share all of their resources due to all of the restrictions placed upon the district. 

“We called KDE and asked if we could more creatively use these funds with some of our partners, and of course Girls Inc. is a great partner for us,” Constant said. “KDE said we could, so we’re providing Tish with some resources that she’s turning back around to help offset salary costs for some of her staff for a while to provide academic support.” 

Constant added, “It really speaks to the strong partnership that we have. And I think the question we ask ourselves is just if we didn’t have an organization like Girls Inc. what would we do, because our families need services after school.”

During her presentation to the board, Green noted that 79% of girls are 6-11 years old, while the other 21% are 12-18. Green started attending when she was in 3rd grade, and said the organization offers all manner of activities, programs, field trips and events “which allows girls to be creative.”

Osborne said of Green: “With her engagement through the years, it’s just the perfect example of what happens when someone starts with us and stays with us.”

Haiden Johnson and Jazlin Winstead, both 8-year-old 2nd-graders at Foust Elementary School, also gave brief speeches. They said they appreciate being able to attend after school and during the summers. They said they enjoy the wide range of programming and activities offered, from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to baking to making new friends.

OPS board chair Melissa Decker said she was impressed with all three girls’ ability to confidently speak to the group, with Osborne saying that is but one example of what attendees can gain from Girls Inc.

“The public speaking, that’s part of helping girls find their voices,” she said. “It helps them feel like they matter and see that what they have to say to somebody else is of value and importance.”

Osborne said the serve about 400 girls at any given time. She said they know living situations can be fluid, but Girls Inc. provides a constant in girls’ lives.

“We know that we’re serving the most transient populations and we may have six moves in a school year,” she said. “But the one consistent thing can be they can still keep coming to Girls Inc.”

Ryan Richardson, Owensboro Times