What is the Benton Harbor Girls Association for Learning & Self-esteem (BHGALS)? BHGALS is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation formed in 2006 and dedicated to enhancing educational opportunities for girls in grades 4-8 residing in the inner city and Benton Harbor, Michigan area to give them the tools necessary to succeed in school and in life.
What is the Benton Harbor Girls Academy, and how is it related to BHGALS? The Benton Harbor Girls Academy is a middle school that operates under the BHGALS nonprofit umbrella. The Academy opened in September 2010.
- Each class will hold up to 15 students in a non-graded environment.
- Girls flourish in a safe, educationally motivating, values-oriented atmosphere where they can build self-esteem, self-efficacy, and community and social skills.
- Day begins at 8:00am for breakfast, assembly at 8:45, academics from 9:00 to 3:30 p.m., and Extra Curricular Activities (lessons in a variety of skills and activities, including fine and performing arts, Spanish, horticulture, and swimming) until 6:00 p.m.
- Sponsorships of $7,000 are provided by individual and charitable contributions. Tuition of $20 per month or an equivalent service is required of each family.
- Families are actively engaged in their daughters’ education through Parent Gatherings, as well as volunteering in the classroom, on field trips and providing lunches.
- Academy personnel provide a supportive network and advice as the girls move into high school, post-secondary education, and careers.
What is the Girls Discover program? Girls Discover is a summer enrichment program that began in 2007. Sponsorship from many sources made these sessions possible: Harbor House Urban Ministries, the Sisters of St. Joseph Mission and Generous Promises Funds, Michigan Department of Transportation, Whirlpool Corporation, Citizens for Progressive Change, Flagstar Bank, and individual donors, plus staffing by volunteers.
- Sessions focus on a variety of lessons that broaden students’ horizons, develop leadership skills, and help them to become good citizens.
- Minority women discuss their career paths to success, sharing choices they made along the way.
- Intensive reading enrichment offering one-on-one mentoring dramatically improves the girls’ vocabulary and reading comprehension skills.
- Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) projects include designing bridges and elevators and using software to run a city. Girls visit engineering & technology firms, such as Whirlpool, Cook Nuclear Plant, and Lazer Graphics.
- Citizenship and civic responsibility are learned through visits with key city personnel who educate the girls about their community, neighborhood wards, the importance of voting, and how to cast their own ballots.
What is the imminent challenge for the Benton Harbor Girls Association? Currently, the Academy is located in rented space generously provided by the SS. John and Bernard Parish in Benton Harbor, but we cannot grow in this space. We need our own building and campus in order to serve more students and families.
What is the New School & Endowment Campaign? Through the years, BHGALS has been acquiring adjoining lots through purchases and donations in order to create our own campus, and American Electric Power/Cook Nuclear Plant gifted 14 modular building to BHGALS. We have the property and we have the buildings. Now BHGALS is working to raise funds for the infrastructure necessary to site the modular buildings and an endowment to support operation of the Academy for years to come.