Jennifer has been attending Girls Inc. since she was in the seventh grade. She just completed her junior year at Sarasota High School.
“I remember being bullied beginning in third grade and continuing through middle school,” Jennifer says. “Other girls called me names based on my race and pushed me when I walked by. As we grew up and our vocabularies expanded, the words became more tormenting. People called me weird and made me feel ashamed of my interests.”
“This bullying caused me to not accept myself and to go home every day after school crying and feeling bad,” she says. “Soon this self-hate made me build a wall in order to protect my feelings. To lessen the pain and try to fit in, I began treating others the way I was treated.”
“This continued for years until I started Girls Inc. Girls Inc. helps girls from all different types of backgrounds giving them a welcoming environment where they can truly be themselves. Before Girls Inc.,” she adds, “I was only worried about protecting myself and my feelings. After spending time there and getting to know the other girls and staff, I gained self-confidence and began to stand up for myself and others.”
“Last year, my best friend and I went through a traumatic experience when she was assaulted by a boy at school,” she continues. “She was scared and too ashamed to say anything, but I convinced her to report it to the authorities and even went home with her to tell her parents.”
“This experience made me want to be involved in something that will make a difference in girls’ personal lives and create safer schools,” she adds. “It also convinced me to become part of the Girls Inc. Action Network, a one-year advocacy program, where girls across the nation talk about social issues affecting teens and collaborate on ideas to solve these problems. At the end of the term, we meet with different government officials to encourage change in our society.”
“Another big change I hope to make in my own personal life is to graduate high school and attend college,” she says. “The high school program at Girls Inc. has helped me see that there are endless options for education and careers after high school.”