Future Leaders

GRITS gives girls skills to thrive, sisterhood

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Self-esteem, financial literacy, etiquette, leadership, entrepreneurship, and educational/career development are among the skills girls learn in Girls Rocking in the South, or GRITS, a local group that gives girls the support they need to thrive.

Since 2012, GRITS has provided empowerment programs for girls ages 12-18.  The girls gain self-esteem, learn about opportunities available to them, develop a vision for their future, and build the perseverance to make that vision a reality.

“GRITS is not a social organization,” says SUPRENA HICKMAN (pictured below), GRITS founder and executive director. “We work. We take the girls through different programs such as financial stability and having a healthy body and mindset, and we expose the girls to different things such as college preparedness.”

Personalized mentoring and bi-monthly meetings form the backbone of GRITS’ programs. Hickman pairs each girl with a mentor who teaches and guides her in the area she wants to pursue.

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“I’m intentional about discovering what the girls want and what matters to them,” Hickman says. “I want them to own it and stay in the program. That way they don’t get bored and get on the streets.”

At the meetings, the girls learn skills they need to become successful adults while providing a positive environment.

GRITS also provides experiences such as campus tours (done virtually last year), dining in restaurants, and visits to other cities.

“I want to expose them to different things,” says Hickman. “They get excited and nervous when faced with these opportunities.”

In addition, GRITS gives its girls a number of inspirational experiences. For example, the organization’s She Rocks Empowerment and Business Expo is a free annual conference attended by more than 100 teenage girls.  All the sessions are led by teen and adult female speakers and all the conference’s vendors are female teenpreneurs.

“We want the girls to see that they could be a speaker,” says Hickman. “We want them to realize they don’t have to wait to be grown up to start building their career or to take on adult roles.”

GRITS’ monthly podcast, She Rocks Teen Radio, is a conference spinoff. The radio show, which was created by and is run by the girls, gives them valuable experience as well as a platform on which they can speak freely on topics that are relevant to them. They also tackle real-world issues like how teenage girls are affected by riots, Black Lives Matter, and COVID.

Another project, the GRITS Subscription Boxes, provides a way for the girls to monetize their skills and talents. The boxes include merchandise the girls select as well as items they make, such as jewelry, candles, and makeup. The proceeds from the box sales go to GRITS, which then pays the girls for their products.

Soon the girls will also teach classes at the Cameron Art Museum, which will help them develop confidence and public speaking skills.

In the future, Hickman hopes to expand GRITS by bringing on more mentors and giving the girls more travel opportunities. She’s also always on the lookout for new ways to enhance the girls’ experiences and prepare them for a vital future.

“The more issues I see with the girls the better,” she says. “Whenever I see something that excites or irritates me, that’s a project to help them.”

To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to michaelclinephoto.com.

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Categories: Women to Watch