Service organization girlFriends shows students new perspectives

Outside of campus, a group of high school girls is taking service to the next level with girlFriends, a nonprofit organization of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. girlFriends is a volunteer group consisting of about 200 high school girls in the greater Atlanta area. Girls from Westminster, Lovett, Pace, Holy Innocents’, and Woodward join forces through this organization to benefit the community and promote the importance of helping others. Throughout the school year, girlFriends supports Children’s hospitals through membership, volunteer opportunities, fundraising events, and special service projects around Atlanta. Although it has adult advisors, girlFriends is mostly self-run by high school girls. As co-presidents of the organization, seniors Conoly Cravens and Anne Mason Jackson look forward to an exciting year. “girlFriends is much more than just about raising money for Children’s,” said Cravens. “We also want to promote awareness about what service actually is and why it’s important.” During the year, girlFriends is actively involved in many popular events, most notably the Christmas Parade and Battle of the Bands. Claimed to be the largest holiday parade in the southeast, Atlanta’s annual Christmas Parade supports Children’s and recognizes girlFriends as an important contributor to the community. Every December, this charity event receives lots of media attention in the form of hundreds of thousands of spectators and a television audience of more than 500,000 viewers on WSB-TV. Battle of the Bands is also a Children’s fundraiser, but it caters more the young adult audience. By supporting local high school student bands, teens can appreciate good music but also learn about girlFriends’s work for Children’s through this event. “Battle of the Bands is one of my favorite events of the year,” said Jackson. “Not only is it one of our biggest fundraisers, it’s also a fun, social way for people from different schools to come together and bond through shared music.” girlfriends picture 1 In order to plan these events, girlFriends holds monthly meetings at the Lodge at Peachtree Presbyterian Church. During these meetings, which are free and open to anyone, high school girls come together to work on different small projects, such as making blankets, cards, and decorations for patients’ rooms. They also discuss upcoming service opportunities. In addition, the girls often have a chance to listen to personal stories of Children’s patients, doctors, and other informative speakers. “Although we do a lot of fun activities during these meetings,” said Cravens, “we also try to include an educational aspect to learn more about Children’s and how our work is impacting them.” This year, three new small fundraisers will take place around the West Paces Ferry area to boost service spirit in the community. Yogurtland will be supporting girlFriends by taking 20 percent off prices during certain hours and donating the proceeds to Children’s on selected days. FlyBarre will offer one class a semester that only girlFriends members can sign up for; the money paid for the discounted classes will go to Children’s. Festivity will also be doing a sale for seven hours of a selected day. During those hours, customers will receive a 20 percent discount from girlFriends that will go to Children’s. Aside from girlFriends, some high school girls challenge themselves to further their service efforts. Seniors Aanya Agrawala, Jorie Moran, Ellie Oglesby, Hannah Adkins, and Alston Howell participated in the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, a charity event meant to raise awareness for breast cancer. To raise money, the seniors sold a variety of homemade jams. Each person’s goal was to raise $2,300, for a combined total of $12,000. “Although it’s definitely a challenge, we are strongly motivated,” said Agrawala. “All five of us have had someone personal affected by breast cancer, so we really want to show our support and try to make a difference.” girlfriends picture 3 girlFriends has become an outlet for high school girls to explore what service truly means and the rewards that it bears. Through this nonprofit organization, many have discovered and defined their role and impact in the community. “girlFriends really broadened my perspective on service in the community,” said Moran. “At Westminster, sometimes we forget how blessed we are with the resources available to us. In girlFriends, we want to give the same opportunities and choices that we have to those who may not be able to access them otherwise.” girlFriends has also fostered personal growth in other ways. “It’s important for high school students to learn that you can make an impact at a young age,” said Jackson. “girlFriends opens up the real world to you; aside from service, you also gain important life skills through sponsorships and marketing. You also learn how to effectively work in a large group of people with many different perspectives and ideas. girlFriends is much more than just volunteer work, and if one gets the chance, one should really experience what it has to offer.”