Many girls are going through life with a survival mentality, searching for ways to navigate the poverty, food and housing insecurity, struggling schools, high crimes and family distress that marks their lives. Many will drop out of high school or experience teen pregnancy, putting them at a disadvantage to succeed. Without proper direction and a supportive community, they are at risk of falling through the cracks.
Every young woman has unique gifts, talents and strengths that when supported, build self-confidence and increase their ability to succeed. PEARLS for Teen Girls, a nonprofit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, provides a supportive community for teen girls facing immense challenges to realizing their full potential. PEARLS aims to combat generational cycles of poverty and hopelessness through the values of PEARLS—Personal Responsibility, Empathy, Respect, Leadership and Support.
Intergenerational girls-only groups provide a safe space to explore healthy relationships, self-esteem building and goal setting through a research-based curriculum to support the girls to building a better future. Academic success is also key to PEARLS programming. College prep events, campus visits, job shadowing, networking events and mentoring help girls build a path to reaching their goals.
That is what sets PEARLS apart from the rest: They don’t use a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to reach their girls and they don’t prescribe goals and dreams to them. They focus on the girl’s voice, empowering each girl to shape their own path. PEARLS listens to each girl to discover what they want to achieve—be it a better home life, success in school or better self-esteem—and endows them with the resources and guidance to achieve those goals. PEARLS girls develop the social, emotional, and intellectual tools to help them create a positive life vision, develop success skills and serve as community role models.
PEARLS for Teen Girls was founded in 1993 by local entrepreneur and Executive Coach, Colleen Fitzgerald. The first PEARLS group was launched as an after-school program for girls at Jackie Robinson Middle School in 1993, with the intention of providing at-risk girls with a safe space to discuss their challenges in life, set goals and build trusting relationships and self-confidence. Since then, PEARLS has grown from helping dozens of girls a year to helping thousands, with the dream of being able to serve girls all over the world.
PEARLS for Teen Girls is a 2017 S+ Catalyst. Through participation in the Catalyst Program, PEARLS receives training from industry experts in organizational development, branding, measurement and growth, and strategic relationships to amplify their impact and strategically expand their reach.