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Creating opportunities for girls to attend college

Every Monday in our What’s Working series, we talk to people and organizations across the state that are changing lives for the better. This week, we speak with Sue Schooner.

Schooner never liked kids, but she started volunteering with a girls group in Ann Arbor a few years back, and the young women found a way into her life... and they never left. 

So, Schooner quit her job as an auto executive, and is now the executive director for “Girls Group,” a program that mentors and supports high school girls, giving them the opportunities they need to attend college.

“I think part of why the program is so successful is that we provide wraparound programming. So we have discussion groups every single Friday about parent communication, anger management, we have a very intensive college prep program which is basically available seven days a week,” Schooner says.

Schooner says that, in addition to comprehensive academic support, they, “ provide mentoring and counseling twenty four seven, and then we do a lot of social and cultural experiences which provide opportunities for the girls to see a lot of things that they wouldn’t normally see.”

Alexia, a participant in the program, brought her grade point average from 1.5 to 3.7 with the help of Girls Group. Schooner says that the key is providing girls with hope,“One of our favorite quotes is by Marian Wright Edelman, who says that ‘Hope is the greatest contraceptive.’ And so when young women or any of the rest of us can envision a different future, they start making wiser choices to enable that future to happen.”

Schooner sees how getting girls into college benefits communities in the long term, “Each of these young women that go to college become successful wage earners. So instead of being dependent on government funding, they are earning wages and successfully contributing to the community. Plus, their children have a much greater probability of having successful futures, then all the other young people in the community and in the school that see them are inspired—and that creates a sense of hope for all of them.”

Sixteen girls from the program have gone on to become first generation college students.

- Meg Cramer

Christina began her career in radio at Michigan Radio while a student at the University of Michigan. She was a producer and researcher for The Todd Mundt Show, and then hosted Weekend Edition.