The mission statement says it all: Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold.
Cassandra Greer, a relationship manager in Treasury Management at Regions Bank, is a board member of the Central Alabama Girls Inc. chapter and believes strongly in this mission.
“Young girls have so much potential, and we need to set them up for success by providing some extra support,” Greer said. “It’s important to help them develop self-esteem, confidence and even life skills – such as how to dress appropriately in various situations, how to carry themselves or even how to have a conversation with someone outside their social circle.
“And mentors are better with those conversations, because sometimes parents are the ‘bad guys.’ Often, girls need to hear from someone from outside their families to get a different perspective.”
That’s where Girls Inc. comes in, offering empowering, comprehensive programs that help participants navigate education opportunities and personal development from the time they start elementary school until they begin their careers as young adults.
Young girls have so much potential, and we need to set them up for success by providing some extra support.
Cassandra Greer, relationship manager in Treasury Management, Regions Bank
TJ Jackson, compliance administrator in the Consumer Banking Group at Regions Bank, is proof how well the program works.
“I participated in Girls Inc. when I was in middle school,” Jackson said. “The events, speakers and tutoring sessions were great, but what made the biggest impact on me was having exposure to professional role models. My mom was always present and available in my life but having women outside my family invest that time with me was so important.”
Jackson said that experience with Girls Inc. helped her narrow down her career choices to three areas: banking, teaching and law. She decided to major in Finance and her first job was a bank teller at a credit union – and the rest is history.
“Girls Inc. had a real positive influence in my career,” she said. And now Jackson is giving back, serving on the Girls Inc. Committee of 25, which is their junior board.
Jackson is especially happy about a pilot program recently launched in seven Girls Inc. chapters across the country – with the support of the Regions Foundation.
The $60,000 Foundation grant supports Project Accelerate, a mentorship and skills-development program that helps high school girls transition into higher education or into the workforce after graduation. The grant funds will be distributed equally between three Girls Inc. chapters across the Regions Bank footprint: Central Alabama, Greater Indianapolis and St. Louis.
The events, speakers and tutoring sessions were great, but what made the biggest impact on me was having exposure to professional role models.
TJ Jackson, compliance administrator in the Consumer Banking Group, Regions Bank
“We’re pleased to support this important program that helps young women through critical transitions, from high school through college and from college to career,” said Marta Self, executive director of the Regions Foundation. “Project Accelerate’s goal is to speed the entry of young women, especially women of color, into positions of influence and leadership, particularly in sectors where gender disparities are far too prevalent. This aligns with the Regions Foundation and Regions Bank strategic priorities to promote education and workforce readiness and more inclusive prosperity.”
Connie Hill, CEO of Girls Inc. of Central Alabama, is excited about the groundbreaking new program and grateful for the financial support of the Regions Foundation as well as the time and dedication of Regions Bank associates. “Project Accelerate will not only position participants for professional leadership roles in an evolving work environment but will also prepare them to affect cultural change from within.”
Hill explained that the Regions Foundation grant enables Girls Inc. staff to provide case management around college issues and help participants secure paid internships. “Through our national alumnae network, Project Accelerate will provide peer support and build on the connections and trust of the established Girls Inc. sisterhood as young women navigate transitions and new environments.”
This mentorship component is a key aspect of Project Accelerate and sets it apart. According to the nonprofit MENTOR, only one in three young people grow up with a mentor, but more than three-quarters of at-risk youth receiving mentorship aspire to enroll in and graduate from college (versus 56% of youth without mentors). And 45% of those at-risk youth with mentors enroll in college, versus 29% of those without a mentor.
Helping to drive success and give opportunities for future leaders within our communities is so gratifying. These young women have so much potential.
Jess Smith, Credit Products team manager, Regions Bank
“As much as we appreciate the Regions Foundation financial support, the guidance and coaching that our Regions community partners provide is priceless,” Hill added.
Jess Smith, Credit Products team manager at Regions Bank, is another active board member of Girls Inc, and has a long history with the organization. “My involvement began with targeted financial contributions through United Way, then I became a coach of the Girls Inc. Girls on the Run team,” she said. “I got to know some of the girls and was really inspired by the work the organization does to bring out the best in these girls. I was hooked!”
She, too, is happy about Regions Foundation’s support of the new program. “Helping to drive success and give opportunities for future leaders within our communities is so gratifying,” Smith said. “These young women have so much potential.”
“I hope to see some of these Project Accelerate girls as interns at Regions Bank in a few years!”