I am a senior at Central High and have been a Girls Inc. member for thirteen years. My mom is a single mom; she often worked two jobs. Beginning when I was eight, I was the primary babysitter six nights a week for my younger sister. I had a lot of responsibility for such a young child. When I was twelve, my mom had another baby and the babysitting continued. I didn’t get to go out with friends or if I did, I had to be home by 7:30 p.m. to babysit. I had to come home, clean up the kitchen, get the baby to bed, and get my homework done. Although I love them very much, all of the time spent caring for my sisters taught me that I do not want to have a baby until I am stable – physically and financially. I want college to be productive. I want to get good grades, but I want to have fun and enjoy the college life. All of the Girls Inc. reproductive health programs helped give me the tools and information I need to stay child-free, at least until I graduate from college and am ready to be a mom.
Through Girls Inc., I have experienced more things than most girls my age – travel, mentoring, robotics and STEM programs, summer camp, and more. I have gained knowledge, friendships, and a strong sense of self. As a young girl I participated in literacy programs. I received one-on-one tutoring to help me build my reading and comprehension skills, which gave me a strong foundation throughout all my subjects. Literacy was important, but my favorite program when I was young was, My Girlfriend Zelda. Zelda was a soft-sculpture doll that opened up and showed girls everything that was going on in her body: her skeleton, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and her vagina and uterus. Even as a little girl, staff encouraged me to use correct anatomical terminology. I was a seven-year-old girl and Zelda was already planting the seeds that I would someday have a career in a medical field.
After graduating high school, I plan to go on to UNO and major in Pre-Med in order to become a Physician’s Assistant (PA). I have taken tours of colleges, like UNMC, where they have a PA program. I actually got to go into surgery rooms, exam rooms, and even the quarantine unit (where they recently had the Ebola patient) to see exactly where and how a PA works and what they do on a daily basis. I participated in workshops, short lectures, cadaver labs and even viewed a couple lecture halls. I have also visited the Nursing College of Methodist Hospital. We got a tour of the school and we got to see one of their medical mannequins “give birth.” I thought that was really cool! Girls Inc. is currently building a health clinic and it has occurred to me that it might provide the perfect future internship. Knowing that I would be part of girls getting the health care they need without having to leave the Girls Inc. facility is extraordinary. I think this is the perfect way to deliver health services to girls.
The most trusting relationship I’ve built at Girls Inc. is with my mentor. Ms. Roberta has been my mentor since I was in the 3rd grade, and nine years later I can truly say she is a blessing to me. She has played a big role in every aspect my life – school, social life, becoming more adventurous and building healthy relationships. She has always been a great homework helper, helping me with numerous papers and projects. She broke down Shakespeare and Idylls of the King for me and helped me understand them. She has helped me deal with teachers the appropriate way. When I was angry with a teacher, Ms. Roberta encouraged me to control my impulse to blow up. She told me not to let my teacher get between me and a scholarship! Now, my relationship with my English teacher is actually good. We speak to each other with mutual respect and she understands that I am in her class to learn and not to be an irritant. Ms. Roberta encourages me to try things I’ve never done before, from being in a play that she directed to trying escargot. (I liked them both!) She has given me good tips on eating healthy, like instead of using regular spaghetti noodles to use whole grain, and using fresh fruits and vegetables (which she usually gets from the Farmers Market, one of our favorite places to go on a Saturday morning). Of course she has given me advice about boys; she has told me numerous stories about her past relationships when she was my age. It helps me to know that even though she is older than me, she went through many of the same things I am going through.
In addition to school, I have a job as a cashier at a local grocery store. It is not my dream job; it is not something I want to do for the rest of my life. For now, it provides money for extras and for my senior year expenses, like a cap and gown. Girls Inc. helped teach me work ethic and responsibility – both of which I need in this job. These skills – being on time, not calling in for unnecessary reasons, being prepared – will serve me well in the real world (when I have my dream job as a Physician’s Assistant!) – Mychael, Spring 2015
Post script: I am now a freshman at UNO! – Mychael, Fall 2015