Our 2020 Girl of the Year
For four years, Girls Inc. has been a place of refuge for 17- year-old rising senior Iyona Torbert.
She and her sister came to Girls Inc. after the devastating loss of their mother and needed a
nurturing environment where staff would understand their sensitive emotional state and
encourage them to continue learning and thriving to succeed in life. Girls Inc. was the answer.
Grieving the loss of her mom and not knowing how to express her grief, Iyona initially had some
challenges and acted out. “When I met all of the staff, they were really nice to me even though I
was giving everybody here a lot of trouble.”
She now credits Girls Inc. with her improved behavior, and she sees a bright future for herself.
“If I didn’t go here, I would’ve been arrested, become a runaway or in some trouble with law
enforcement. I trust the staff has my best interest, and I’m happy here.”
She continued, “My goals are to finish high school and go to college to study law.” These are
plans she clearly never had for herself as she thought she was doomed to a life of trouble and
possible incarceration, but the one-on-one talks and advice from “mother figures” Ms. Symone,
Ms. Melijah, Mrs. JP, and Ms. Denise has made all the difference in the world.
Linking with her peers has also been a welcomed journey. She has made friends that she may
never met had it not been for Girls Inc. Iyona says, “I enjoy conversations with my peers to see
what their life is like.”
Additionally, the programming has positively
impacted her. She appreciates experiencing
activities, such as College and Careers, Project Cookie Jar (sponsored by TYSYS) and other teen-related activities, alongside her peers.
Like many Girls Inc. girls, Iyona is curious about life beyond high school. “I’ve learned a lot about
college here, and I feel like I’ll be prepared when I go. I’ve been exposed to resume writing, practiced interviewing and learned about careers. I’ve learned things here that I may not have learned outside of Girls Inc.” For instance, she admits, “I now know what a GPA is, thanks to Ms. Janea. I didn’t know what it was before.”
Girls Inc. has taught me to respect myself and to make healthy choices. Without Girls Inc. I would have done something I wasn’t supposed to do. I am strong, smart and bold because
coming here has made me a whole different person. No matter what life brings, I will be prepared.