Teaching, Empowering, Encouraging New Generation

Idea Leader: Ginia Moorehead

Location: York, PA

Partner Organization:  York City School District-William Penn High School

Project Summary:  Spearheaded by Ginia Moorehead,18, and supported by a trusted social worker, TEEN is a character building group for adolescent girls that created a bond that felt like family. As someone who had already dropped out three times, Ginia wanted to make a difference for others through weekly discussions and activities to enhance wellbeing, reduce trauma and support
college and career exploration.

Afterschool Program Provides Support for Teen Girls

Ginia Moorhead walked into my clinical social work office with trepidation, she appeared to be very timid, I immediately recognized her despair and invited her into my office. Ginia informed me that another student suggested that she come talk to “Mrs. Barb.”

Ginia was 16 with a young daughter, she asked to join every group, she requested individual therapy, and she was determined to find a new lens to view her life through. One of her favorite phrases was “I didn’t know that!” Ginia was in a strange new world, she informed me that her mother and eight siblings were displaced; most of her siblings went to foster care. Ginia left her home and moved to a two bedroom apartment in another state with her newborn child, her boyfriend, his parents, and his three siblings to avoid being placed in foster care.

Ginia looked into her daughter’s eyes and vowed she would break the cycle of poverty and abuse.  Guarded and cautious she began testing the water with me, could this adult be trusted? Soon she emerged from the cocoon, “Mrs. Barb, I want to write a book, Never Make the same Mistake Twice,” she declared. I inquired who her audience would be and she informed me that she had a desire to help other students avoid the heartbreak she had endured. Her motivation came from helping others, everyday her dream evolved to the point where her long term goal is to establish a non-profit recreation center and daycare for inner city youth who struggle with the very same issues she encountered. The center has a name, “YES YOU CAN.” 

Ginia and I had long discussions about the community and the staggering drop out statistics plaguing William Penn High School.  Ginia herself had dropped out of 9th grade three times. I asked if she would like to attend a Truancy Prevention Meeting with me and she said yes…this once shy young lady sat and listened to the Community Leaders discuss what would help the students achieve higher rates of success. Ginia accepted the challenge from a local Judge, who asked if anyone in the audience had any suggestions.  

Ginia suggested that it was not as complicated as they make it seem, what we need she said is…more support, social workers like Mrs. Barb who are there for us when we have a dilemma, most of us don’t know what to do, we don’t know how to navigate around the “Systems” we might be wrestling with mental health issues, trauma, the first to graduate from high school, or we could be homeless, we need support from someone who is Licensed to work with this population; someone we can trust.  We have to know there is someone we can call at anytime; we need her support and knowledge to get us over the hurdles we face in life.

Ginia became an instant celebrity, she had people calling asking her to speak at local events.  Ginia didn’t want to wait to help others; she wanted to start a peer mentoring group to eradicate the circumstances that contribute to William Penn’s extremely high dropout rate. Ginia asked if I could help her get this program off the ground and I emphatically agreed to be the adult supporter of TEEN (Teaching, Empowering, Encouraging the New Generation) a character-building program that urges girls ages 13 to 17 to graduate from high school and to make scholastic and career plans for their futures.

TEEN was awarded AT&T’s America’s Promise grant for 15,000. The grant provided the funds for students to meet weekly and discuss topics to enhance wellbeing, reduce trauma and increase graduation rates. The students were able to attend field trips to several colleges. One young lady stated that if she hadn’t been afforded the opportunity to go on the Temple field trip, she would have never known that it was possible for her to attend college; she will be the first in her family to go to college and she has been working very hard to improve her grades, she made the honor roll this semester.

Ginia has touched many in the community, the girls report they feel like a family, some of the students report that they have no where else to go. The girls rely on each other and the adult supporters of TEEN. Ginia was awarded the Central PA Mentor of the Year at the MLK Living the Dream Event.

TEEN Mentoring Group began as a young girls dream to support and educate the “forgotten ones”, Ginia said people would walk past her and not “see” her. Ginia has found her passion; TEEN will not continue without the support of ATT&T America’s Promise, we can report that we have had a 100 percent graduation rate and Ginia will be attending Penn State in the fall. We have discussed a plan to develop TEEN mentoring group with Penn State students and the administrators are open to the suggestion. We also want to extend the program to the middle school, girl helping girls, throughout the life cycle.

As a clinical social worker I can attest to the growth and development of each TEEN member. TEEN provides psycho education, therapeutic intervention, support and experiences that the girls had due to the generosity of the AT&T’s America’s Promise grant.  The girls said they had never been to a college campus, eat a nice restaurant, go to the retreat in the Pocono’s, go bowling and watch a movie like a family. The girls filled out FASFA forms and explored college career choices. However, if you ask the TEEN members what the most important component of the peer mentoring group is they will tell you that it is a place where they can go and have a voice; peers who will listen and suggest a solution to the problems that they are facing. A place where they will be accepted for who they are and dream of what they will become!