Bold, Smart, Strong

Art, traveling and cooking are some of the most popular activities at the local Girls Inc. here in Syracuse. And there are even more resourceful things sprouting up every year.

Inside the beautiful, red and white, three-story ZontaHouse on the corner of Douglas and Graves streets, young women develop life skills through simulation in activities like “Mini Society.” They also grow into a deeper understanding of societal messages in magazine and television ads in their “Media Literacy” program.

Makayla Lockwood, 8, and Carressma Butler, 9, enjoy it all.

“We can play dress-up games, and make a nursery with little pets,” Lockwood said. “Butler added, “and I like to make brownies” in the large kitchen upstairs.

Keonna Wren and Samantha Kuy-Kendall, both 12, also love Girls Inc. at the YWCA of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

“I like the art room because we get to do fun projects,” Kuy-Kendall said. She has been going to Girls Inc. since the summer of 2009. She detailed how the girls made globes using balloons, plaster and newspapers. Colorful, handmade paper butterflies adorn the back wall of the art area. Kuy-Kendall explained how the butterflies blossomed from “coffee filters, markers and water.”

The staff keeps the girls engaged and inspired by coordinating an array of activities that include science experiments and lessons in financial literacy — making account deposits and withdrawals and check writing.

Kendra Scott, 23, is the school-age youth development director and a Syracuse University graduate with a focus in child and family studies. She said she got involved because she saw “a great need for programs like ours here in Syracuse.”

Sarah Holzhauer, 26, is the program director and is instrumental in the day-to-day activities at the site, located at 401 Douglas St. Holzhauer received her bachelor’s from SUNY Oswego. She said she has always wanted to work with kids.

Scott mentioned a project called “photo voice,” and the girls happily interjected.

Kuy-Kendall described it as a project where “we brought cameras home and took pictures of whatever we wanted. And we also took pictures of things that showed our traditions and cultures.”

Wren added, “I took pictures of food and ornaments, plus my grandma’s church clothes and her statues outside.”

When the subject turned to history recently, Wren described a book she read about George Washington. She’s something of an expert on presidents, recounting that America’s first one had dentures made from hippo tusks and that Abe Lincoln “filed important legal papers under his big hat.”

Girls Inc. will hold a Girls Summit March 27 at Onondaga Community College; to learn more, call 474-0746