Sojourner Truth Girls Academy
Sojourner Truth Girls Academy, sponsored by the Urban League of Battle Creek, offers girls experiences in math and science and exposure to female role models in the fields of engineering and computer technology. The program sparks interest in science and math topics through enriching activities like creating balloon rocket launchers, making flavored lip gloss, and designing and building simple airplanes.
Michigan Nightlight: Tell us briefly about your program in terms of it purpose and who it serves.
Funding & Program Developer/Program Coordinator for Sojourner Truth Girls Academy and Future Force Jo Ann Cribbs
: The Sojourner Truth Girls Academy is an after-school program held at several school sites in Battle Creek. It exists to provide young girls with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to reach their highest potential by encouraging them to learn as much as possible about science, technology, engineering and math. We serve girls from eight to 14 years old who attend Battle Creek Public Schools. Our vision is to create a powerful alignment of community resources to improve the academic achievements of girls and enhance their capacity to be productive and contributing members of society.
What really differentiates this program?
We are the only education program in Calhoun County that offers engineering curriculum at an elementary grade level. What
Our programming combines academic enrichment through in-the-classroom instruction in all four STEM subjects and during field trips and excursions with the community experts...
really differentiates Sojourner Truth Girls Academy is that engineering curriculum and also the girls-only component of the program. Our programming combines academic enrichment through in-the-classroom instruction in all four STEM subjects and during field trips and excursions with the community experts, Urban League of Battle Creek professionals and volunteers who combine strengths to educate the girls.
The hands-on learning opportunities set us apart, too. For example, the girls became “environmental engineers” this year. Our after-school environmental engineers learned with experts about oil spills and their impact on the environment; they found out just what’s involved in the cleanup process, and we introduced them to the growing field of green engineering. This subject is very relevant to our community and was of great interest. Every one of these girls still remember waking up and smelling the oil in the air over the city of Battle Creek when they were younger. The girls need all of this, I think, to gain awareness about and increase desire for higher education and to find their own bridges out of poverty.
What are the keys to success for your program?
One key to our success is the fact that the Urban League of Battle Creek is such a trusted and credible advocate for institutional and community changes. These changes have benefited mostly at-risk youth and their families. The Urban League of Battle Creek has helped empower communities and change lives for 47 years. With great leadership and hard work, the Urban League of Battle Creek has managed to build community relationships, establish community partners, and greatly impact the city of Battle Creek.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our collaborators, too: the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the United Way, the Math and Science Center, the Kingman Museum of Natural History, Battle Creek Public Schools (Valley View Elementary, Ann J.
I find that most children, if left to their own sense of diplomacy, have no problems with race or diversity.
Kellogg Elementary, and Northwestern Middle Schools as program sites), Western Michigan University College of Aviation, the Battle Creek Chapter of the American Association of University Women, and the American Honda Foundation.
Each supporter has helped us encourage young girls to consider careers in math, science, technology or engineering. We also have a fantastic staff, a dedicated board of directors, and our volunteers. We all have a passion for youth, and we all love what we do.
What existing challenges remain with this program and how do you plan to overcome them?
Besides funding, which will always be a challenge, transportation continues to be the biggest challenge for the Sojourner Truth Girls Academy. Recently, we had to cancel plans for our year-end field trip because of an unavoidable conflict with a volunteer transportation provider. We depend heavily on volunteers for our transportation needs; community churches such as Macedonia Baptist Church and New Harvest Christian Center have been a blessing to our organization with the usage of their vehicles and drivers. If we had our own transportation, however, we could reach more vulnerable children -- the ones who cannot stay after school because they have no way home if they miss the school bus.
How does race or diversity affect the work of your program?
This is the United States of America, so race affects practically everything, but I find that most children, if left to their own sense of diplomacy, have no problems with race or diversity. Our multiple program sites around the city ensure diversity in Sojourner Truth Girls Academy participants, just by existing. Statistically speaking, the numbers of African-American girls who tend to participate (about 45 percent) and Caucasian girls (around 41 percent) are very close. The rest are bi-racial (eight percent), we have five percent of Latino-American girls. And, no girls are turned away. Although we target at-risk girls, no girl who’s truly interested in participating will be refused admission to the program. We’re racially, economically and socially diverse.