AAUW, girls group home enjoy years-long alliance
WILLMAR — Cante wants to be a social worker. “I just want to help kids.”
Ashley is one of several who want to be doctors. “I had back surgery, so I want to be a surgeon.”
Alicia is looking into being a chemical dependency counselor. “I like using what I’ve learned to help others.”
The plans of the Prairie Lakes Girls Group Home residents are varied and ambitious. Other girls are interested in nursing, photography, welding or being a chef.
The girls from the group home have a group of local women at their sides as they take the first steps toward their goals.
One of those steps was a visit to the Ridgewater College campus this week to learn about the food service and cosmetology programs. The Willmar Branch of the American Association of University Women sponsored the tour. Future tours are likely to address other interests of the girls, like veterinary technology or law enforcement.
“We have had a relationship for quite a few years,” said AAUW member Jeanette Carlson during a lunch with the girls. The tour included 10 girls and a handful of adults, mostly AAUW members.
“It’s just fun, I think, to see the smiles on their faces,” Carlson said.
In addition to the tour, the Willmar Branch invites residents of the group home to its monthly meetings, and the chapter throws a Christmas party each year with bingo, gifts and treats. The branch members provide other activities throughout the year.
Carlson said she took the movie “Iron Jawed Angels” to the group home last year. It’s a film about how women won the right to vote. The girls came to watch the movies in their pajamas and snuggled under blankets, snacking on popcorn and root beer.
“At the end of the movie, they all cheered and clapped,” Carlson said, smiling at the memory.
Jane Hedman, community coordinator for the group home, said the connection with AAUW is an important one for the group home residents.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful that the AAUW women are active in the girls’ lives,” she said.
Things like the college tour help the girls feel that college is a realistic option for them, she said. During the tour they learned about career options in food service and cosmetology, ate lunch and ice cream sundaes in the student center and were offered manicures by cosmetology students.
They also took a career interest survey and met with a career counselor.
“I think they definitely are excited about it,” Hedman said.
The girls said they like having the women around, too.
“It helps you not feel so lonely,” said Cante (Shon-TAY). Her family lives an hour away from Willmar.
She then turned to the Rev. Beverly Crute and said, “Thank you for being there.”
Crute smiled at her and paused for an emotional moment before she talked about the relationship with the girls.
“We all value education,” Crute said. It’s their goal, she added, “to impart that love of education to these young women, to stretch their aspirations.”