Angie Stringer, 44, moved to Sarasota from North Carolina 22 years ago. Her passion has always been to work with nonprofits, and she has spent her career working at organizations focused around mentoring children and young adults. She was the former director of communications and agency resources at Girls Inc. from 2004 to 2007, and moved on to Children First where she spent eight years as Director of Major Gifts. Now, she’s returned to Girls Inc., accepting the role of executive director.
I have strong women in my family. My mom, grandmother, and aunts all graduated from college and all worked. I was raised in an environment where women did get a college education, volunteered, worked full time and raised their children. I was raised by women who were career-oriented. My mom was a concert promoter and in marketing and advertising. Being a working mom (myself), I was fortunate to have that example and have that balance.
I went to an all women’s college. In high school, I was not the best student. I was very average, I didn’t get very involved. When I went to college — an all women’s college — when I got there, I was so much more comfortable reaching for leadership positions. I became president of the student body council, and it really gave me a stronger desire to succeed in school and do well, and it made a huge difference in my life. I was a lot more comfortable with myself and I really attribute that to a lot of leadership positions that I’ve had as an adult. When you’re in an environment where you feel safe, when girls are all together, they’re a lot more supportive of each other. Having the support of other girls and women, I knew that I could be a leader.
The biggest challenge to girls now is being socially accepted and (having a) positive self-image. Social media is a huge issue for girls right now...Young girls and teens—any teens— are using that, and they forget there’s a person on the other side of that contact. The more we can educate the girls about appropriate ways to use social media and then, that will take us great strides. I think now, social acceptance is very closely tied to social media. Kids can be cruel to each other, and really learning there is another person at the other end of that computer while you’re on there, saying things or commenting or asking for others’ approval on social media. I think through the programs we offer...we’re helping them create their own (self esteem), rather than relying on social media or opinions of others.
Right now, there is a strong movement to educate girls in STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) areas. Girls Inc is in a great place to make a move to the next level and offer more programs that are going to give girls the edge they need to become leaders in those fields. When girls are here, they’re able to overcome. Girls are more likely to explore fields like that in an all-girl environment because they feel safe from judgment, safe from gender stereotypes, and able to move forward in an area that’s usually dominated by males. So having extended programs at Girls Inc. will allow them to explore that in a way that they probably wouldn’t in their school environment.
If we are able to give girls a boost they need right now, then we’re creating major leadership in our community. We’re going to continue focusing on that because we want to keep that strong. We get the girls between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. It’s the most dangerous time of the day for school-aged kids. By them coming here, we have the ability to keep them in a safe place, and also the opportunity to educate, empower and inspire them onto greater things during that three hours of the day.
I really want to expand our connection with other organizations and get the girls out in the community. Community partnerships enhance what we can do here.
Another goal of mine is to be able to expand the scholarship program so any girl who wants to come here will be able to. Girls of all socioeconomic levels really need the same thing. They need the same foundation and support. They all need to feel safe and secure and have a place they can develop a strong sense of self-esteem. Girls Inc has been able to cover all the bases of what girls today need. They need to learn the importance of career and goal-planning, managing money, how women are viewed, self esteem and self-reliance. These are all things that cross the lines of socioeconomics, and I want to make sure we’re serving every girl in the community, no matter what economic group her family is in.
We have a lot of male volunteers that come in. That’s something else that’s really important, providing strong male role models for girls. In this day and age, it’s not necessarily a given that there’s going to be a dad or a positive male role model. We do have men here who mentor the girls and work with them in the classroom. They get to see the positive side and demonstrate positive relationships with males. Girls Inc is about teaching girls to succeed, and males are a huge part of that.