Writing in journals and learning about nutrition might seem a soft response to the havoc Covington's poverty, flashes of violent crime and grim educational statistics can reek on its young girls.
But organizers and funders of Girls Relating with Outstanding Women (GROW) say the new, one-off, eight-month program will strengthen mother/daughter relationships and stem the tide of girls who drop out of high school and end up without basic life skills.
Twenty-two percent of mothers of Covington students have less than a high school education and 82 percent of Covington mothers haven't finished college, according to the Covington Independent School District.
"Many of the situations that our children come from, you just can't expect those children to come to class ready to learn," says Stacie Strotman, a coordinator of the Drug-Free Community program.
Funded by a federal grant, the Drug-Free Community program is part of Covington Partners in Prevention (CPIP), a coalition formed in 1999 of more than 100 community members providing programs and services supporting Covington's youth through the school district.
"When kids are excited about coming to school, they can be more prepared and ready to learn," says Johnna Fasold, a spokeswoman for CitiGroup, a member organization of CPIP.
A $20,000 grant from the Women's Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to CPIP is funding GROW. Strotman says she developed the program with Vicki Dansberry, another coordinator, and Janice Wilkerson, the district's director of support services.
GROW will be open to sixth- and seventh-grade girls in public and private schools and also girls in Covington churches. The program's goal is to attract 50 participants.
The women paired with the girls don't have to be their mothers, but can be a woman, such as an aunt or a grandmother, with significant influence in the girls' lives, Strotman says.
"Ideally, what we want to happen is there's a significant relationship that'll happen between the woman and the daughter," she says.
Equipped with disposable cameras, the girls and their partners will start off using scrapbooks and journals to document their daily lives and the nuances of their relationships.
Though this might sound harmless and reparative, if the girl's relationship with their GROW partners is fraught with the mother/daughter melodrama that naturally plagues pre-adolescence, then documenting it so closely might expose deeper issues.
Strotman says they're prepared to handle what grows from GROW.
"We're all social workers and psychologists, so if anything should happen, we could help with referrals in those fields," she says.
During monthly Saturday meetings the girls will also learn about the stressful business of adulthood, such as car maintenance, budgeting, nutrition, jobs and home ownership. Strotman says many of the sponsors, including Gateway Community and Technical College and Bigg's, are already members of CPIP.
"The Greater Cincinnati Foundation has promised to help foster relationships with other sponsors," Strotman says.
GROW is a one-time program whose funder selected only one recipient of the grant money.
"And we just happened to be the one," Strotman says.
Perhaps the girls who'll sign up for GROW will learn the obvious lesson: The information that'll most help them overcome poverty and mis-education isn't a secret known only by the upper classes.
And it's at home.
"Maybe a middle-class or wealthy family might know this," Strotman says. "But just because you live in poverty doesn't mean you don't deserve this information."
For more in formation on GROW, call Stacie Strotman at 859-392-3179 or Vicki Dansberry at 859-392-3176.