Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $900,000)
Recognizing the educational, social, and economic factors that funnel Black girls and other marginalized girls onto pathways to court and justice involvement at inequitable levels and rendering their academic and professional vulnerabilities invisible, Atlanta GLOW is proposing a three-pronged mentoring approach to help reroute, lead and launch traditionally marginalized teen girls of color, ages 14-17, who are at risk for truancy, delinquency, victimization and other negative outcomes towards lives filled with opportunities for skills development, upward mobility, civic engagement and career advancement. Our three-year, OJJDP-funded initiative, Leadership Education/Equity and Advancement Program (LEAP), will engage 550 low-income, minority and/or disabled female youth in evidence-based mentoring, life skills training and leadership development activities delivered utilizing a Positive Youth Development framework that emphasizes strengths-based leadership and promotes goal setting, resilience building and civic engagement. Pathways to economic mobility with connections to community resources will also help ensure that youth and their families have access to all available wraparound supports to improve their quality of life and life outcomes and reduce their risk factors. The communities targeted for participation will lie within Atlanta’s 29-county Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), specifically the Census Tracts identified as Designated Qualified Opportunity Zones by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Many families and youth in these target areas are at a heightened risk for negative outcomes (including truancy, dropout, gang affiliation, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, youth delinquency, and/or victimization) across several domains with low characteristics that include lower education, economic and employment outcomes and higher rates of poverty, uninsured, single parent households, and language barriers than their seating county and state averages. Without intervention, many of these youth will never escape the cycle of poverty. However, Atlanta GLOW sees these youth as “opportunity youth”, a positive framework that indicates that there is potential for these youth to become successful if they receive the right supports. Thus, our LEAP project will facilitate six cohorts of individual and group mentoring activities annually, with select youth advancing to participate in additional group-based leadership development and career exploration opportunities. Establishing and maintaining healthy, supportive and meaningful relationships between youth and trusting adults is central to our project strategy, as it is through these relationships that youth can learn to overcome stressors, navigate and resist social pressures, manage conflict and life challenges constructively, and remove the barriers that limit them from reaching their full potential.