Leandra Hall has always been excited about robotics, and as a member of the Girl Scouts Tropical Florida, the 13-year-old wanted to find a way to help others. So this past summer, the eighth-grader began teaching girls from underserved communities coding as well as how to assemble a robot.
Her efforts earned her the Silver Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn at her age for a service project that identifies a need in the community and works to improve the lives of others.
“I recognize that there is a lack of diversity and inclusion in STEM fields,” said Leandra, who continues to conduct workshops for other community organizations. “Technology comes naturally to me so I feel compelled to provide that exposure to other girls of color as well.”
Marice Cohn Band, Leandra’s Troop 1239 leader in Miami Beach, applauds her efforts in making a difference in the community.
“She saw the need for kids to learn,” Cohn Band said. “Our goal is to find needs in the community that can be repaired during the service projects.”
Technology comes naturally to me so I feel compelled to provide that exposure to other girls of color as well.
Leandra Hall, Girl Scout
Among their activities, the Girl Scouts have cooked dinner for residents at the Miami Rescue Mission Center for Women and Children, and donated 2,000 books as well as teacher’s helpers bags filled with notebooks, pencils and pens for students at Biscayne Elementary School in Miami Beach.
“We try to show the girls that little things that you think mean nothing, mean a lot to someone else,” Cohn Band said.
The Girl Scouts are just one of several local nonprofit organizations that work to make an impact on the lives of girls in underserved communities.
Founded 15 years ago by Tracy Wilson Mourning, wife of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, Honey Shine is a mentoring program designed to enrich the lives of girls ages 8 to 18 in urban and rural underserved communities.
Honey Shine provides after-school programs in three Miami-Dade County public elementary schools: Maya Angelou in Miami, and Parkview and Hibiscus, both in Miami Gardens. The girls learn life skills and education enrichment such as robotics and STEM from Miami-Dade County public school teachers. The girls also receive training in digital literacy by using tablets provided by Comcast. Bank of America also teaches a workshop on financial literacy.
Graduating high school seniors receive assistance in applying for colleges and financial aid, and representatives from area colleges speak to the students. The students also go on field trips to museums, movie theaters and colleges.
“We focus on taking them outside of their communities and experiencing other things,” said Millie Delgado, program manager for Honey Shine.
We teach the girls self-empowerment, character development, self-love and etiquette. We empower young girls to shine as women.
Millie Delgado, Honey Shine
The organization also offers its girls Camp Honey Shine, a six-week summer day camp, where the curriculum is expanded to include swimming lessons, yoga, dance, theater, music, language arts and other activities. The girls get help with their required summer book reading and receive book bags and school supplies.
Honey Shine has also expanded to elementary schools in Los Angeles and Dallas.
“We teach the girls self-empowerment, character development, self-love and etiquette,” Delgado said. “We empower young girls to shine as women.”
Another nonprofit, the Embrace Girls Foundation, provides mentoring and after-school programming for girls ages 6 to 12 in three Miami-Dade public elementary schools: Ben Sheppard in Hialeah and Arcola Lake and Poinciana Park, both in Miami.
Girls receive homework assistance from certified teachers as well as life-skills training. Other activities include a tennis club sponsored by the U.S. Tennis Association, as well as book and birthday clubs. The girls also participate in a culinary program sponsored by Whole Foods where they learn to cook nutritious meals.
Embrace Girls provides opportunities for girls to experience activities outside of their community. The girls are gearing up to visit the recently opened National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., in November.
“We take them out of the community and expose them to what is available,” said Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, vice chair of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, who is actively involved with the organization.
Girls who have successfully completed the program serve as interns or are employed as teacher’s assistants.
“They’ve been through the program,” Bendross-Mindingall said. “They’ve been successful and can share their stories.”