Boys & Girls Club S.M.A.R.T. Girls Program

I write this blog tonight from the comforts of my warm home as the wind and rain batters down outside. My children are safe in their beds and probably dreaming of all they have to look forward to in life. Lucky for them, they have that luxury of being able to dream. It is a world away from where I found myself this week when I met some resilient young women who are S.M.A.R.T. Girls from the Union League Boys and Girls Club.

I was asked to talk about self-esteem and setting goals. But first, I wanted to understand more about each of these girls so I would know more about their perspectives. I asked them to talk to me about the issues they face and what is troubling them. Much of what I heard was incomprehensible for most. Trust me. What makes it even more heart breaking is being told such things in such a matter of fact way.

These are brave girls…more courageous than they may give themselves credit for being. There is no quick way to rescue them from the perils they face. And it is frustrating. I cannot imagine how it would feel to be one of their parents.

OUR girls need us. They need us to step up for them…to protect them and shelter them. They need US to speak up for them. They need to understand they have the right to say, “No,” which should be heard and respected. They deserve the opportunity to consider all the fantastic things the world has to offer. And right now, they need a life-free from gunfire, gang bangers and whacked out street people trying to grab them in the alley. Their nearby park should not be closed for play because of violence. They deserve a childhood, as they are children.

OUR children have enough to deal with each day of their young lives. They have classmates, bullies, teachers and tests…they should not have to worry about getting to and from school safely. And yet, these girls have to do just that. The walls of their apartments will not shield them from bullets. Their dreams will not protect them from the nightmares they have witnessed. And…these resilient young girls are only 10 and 11 years old. Think back to when you were their ages.

We talked about their right to say, “NO, that is not allowed,” and what to do if someone does not listen to them. I asked each of them to think of at least 3 adults they could trust to help them if needed. We chatted about surrounding ourselves with those who build us up and getting rid of those who try to break us down. And at the end of the afternoon, I gave each SMART Girl some of my Mrs. International stationery. I asked them to go home and think about how they wanted to see their lives in a year, 3 years and 5 years from now. Then, I asked them to write it down and even give themselves directions on how to get to those goals. My hope is they will think of these plans as promises they are making to themselves because they are worth it.

And then our time together ended with each young lady trying on the crown and taking pictures. They were so thrilled! I also gave each of them my card with my

information in case they need it. I want to thank the Union League Boys and Girls Club for allowing me to be in the presence of such extraordinary young women. And I encourage you to get involved with programs such as the Boys and Girls Club.

Be the change,

Amy Gregorio 
Your Mrs. International


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