Strong, Smart and Bold, A Girls, Inc. Success

With a quiet but pleasant demeanor, Lakeland elementary schooler Jaida knew how to easily mask her academic deficiencies to her peers.

Her plan to slip by in school, unnoticed, was going according to plan. But tutors at Girls, Inc. saw through it.

Attending Girls, Inc. of Lakeland since kindergarten, the trained tutors in the Building Strong, Smart and Bold Girls program, which United Way of Central Florida funds, knew she was heading for trouble.

Jaida would shut down during one-on-one or small group sessions when faced with a challenging concept, as her secret struggles would become observable by her friends.

Her quiet but pleasant demeanor gone, replaced with defiance.

Jaida’s habit of masking her problems led her to becoming overly emotional and, in third grade, being retained.

But she came back to Girls, Inc. the following year.

“When she first came she had a difficult time transitioning,” said Kay Fields, President and CEO of Girls, Inc. of Lakeland, “But with the nurturing environment here at Girls, Inc., we’re seeing academic gains and improved behavior.”

Jaida was embarrassed, but she started opening up. She didn’t just learn to accept help, she learned to ask for it. Retention may have been the worst thing that could have happened to little Jaida, but it may have been the best thing for her work ethic.

During her second year in third grade, Jaida grew into a committed student and learned that giving up garnered no glory.

Now in sixth grade, 12-year-old Jaida continues to improve, Fields said.

“I realized that it’s not a race,” Jaida said. “It’s ok to ask for help and I just need to work hard and do my best.”

Jaida’s confidence has grown and, with improved self-esteem, she is determined to work hard to be the best version of her self.

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