Pearls girls tour southern colleges

With the hope of empowering Milwaukee middle school and high school girls to set both their sights and their grades on college, Pearls for Teen Girls, Inc. embarked on its ninth annual national college tour last June.

The tour introduced 15 Pearls Girls to seven schools in Alabama, Florida and Georgia where they toured campuses, met students and staff members, and learned more about tuition and financial aid.
“Bottom line is I hope that they learn that this is achievable and attainable and accessible to them so that they learn that if they apply themselves in school that this too can be possible for them, that there really is no limitation on where they can be, what they can be,” said Danae Davis, chief executive officer for Pearls for Teen Girls Inc.
The nonprofit and leadership development organization helps at-risk girls in Milwaukee succeed in school, avoid teen pregnancy and realize their goals and dreams as well as accomplish them.
According to Davis, the annual national college tour began almost a decade ago in order to give girls a glimpse of a college experience and give them an opportunity to explore college life outside their home city. Girls as young as seventh and eighth grade take part in the national tour along with high school students closer to the college threshold. Many are first-generational college bound students.
“The earlier we can give that experience to a girl, the more likely she can set her academic goals so that she will be successful at getting into the college of her choice with the appropriate amount of money,” Davis said.
For many of the girls who participate, the national college tour is the first opportunity they’ve ever had to travel outside Milwaukee. Davis said at this last national tour one of the attendees had never been on a plane, never been away from home and never been away from her mother.
“She now knows that there’s a world out here that she wasn’t aware of,” Davis said.
The national college tour opens girls up to schools all over the country. According to Davis, the tour never makes its way to the same part of the country consecutive years.
Each Pearls girl is granted two national college tours and eligible to participate once they have provided a $25 application fee to solidify their interest and attended a mandatory meeting about the program with a parent.
The Pearls nonprofit, which focuses its efforts primarily on African American and Latina girls ages 10 to 19, selects schools to tour based on conversations with participants. Some girls have a particular interest in visiting a particular region of the country while others know specific schools they’d like to tour and others have an idea of the kinds of programs and majors they want to check out during the tour.
In addition to taking campus tours, girls also engage in cultural tours to connect with their history and culture. This past June, they visited the Georgia Aquarium, the John G. Riley Museum, and the George Washington Museum.
According to Davis, girls often walk away from the tour more hopeful about their futures and college as a real prospect.
“I think the most impactful thing about our consistently hosting this tour is that more and more girls have higher expectations, and it inspires them to really work hard at their academics so that they don’t limit their options when it comes to going to college,” she said.

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