Resident Services Coordinator, Gloria Morales, has a lot in common with the young women at her Madison Place community in Bakersfield, California. As a native of the area, she attended the same middle and high schools as many of her residents. Driven by her intense dedication and affection for her hometown and Madison Place, Gloria leads the “Living It Up” program. The curriculum for youth between 8 to 12 years of age creates a safe, encouraging space for children to be active in sports, sharpen their academic skills, do homework, and other afterschool programming.
After recognizing a period of vulnerability for youth matriculating from “Living It Up,” Gloria proactively designed a program to meet the distinct and unique needs of teenage girls between 14 and 17 years of age that lack the support and guidance needed to succeed in high school. Gloria’s leadership in the “Thriving in Life” program helped identified adult female leaders in the community to share their experiences with the young women, foster a college-bound culture, speak to their common experiences, and help mentor the youth in community service and wellness programs. The comprehensive model includes activities and skill building in health and wellness, sports and nutrition, community service, employment education, and college and career counseling. “Thriving in Life” is made possible in large part thanks to two grants from The Women’s and Girls’ Fund of the Kern Community Foundation and the Dignity Health Community Grants Program in Bakersfield.
In its inaugural year, 27 girls have successfully completed the program with inspiring results that have not only proven the success of the model, but also demonstrated the real transformation in the lives of these young women. Ninety percent of the girls got involved in sports, grades visibly improved, seven are found employment, and four are headed to college this Fall. All the young women employed their newly acquired training in job and college readiness as they toured two college campuses this summer. Moreover, the youth participants developed a pride in their own abilities and their community—serving food at a homeless shelter during the holidays and walking the precinct with neighborhood leaders.
Gloria’s initiative and the “Thriving In Life” program has gifted young women with a new perspective and hope. The positive guidance has meant a platform for a new direction and supportive pathway out of poverty.
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