Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR), a department of the Madison Metropolitan School District, has a unique partnership with Girls Inc. of Greater Madison that offers virtual afterschool clubs this year. Girls Inc. inspires girls to be strong, smart and bold. 

This spring, the program featured fitness classes on Tuesday nights. The MSCR virtual club has about 130 girls from all MSCR elementary school sites participating. Family members were also invited to join and sample a variety of fun, fitness classes led by MSCR Fitness instructors like WERQ, Strong Girls Strength and Yoga. In addition to leading classes, the fitness instructors also inspired the girls to be strong using thoughtful and encouraging messages. 

“The goal is to help girls find their strengths physically and mentally,” said Leslie Smith, MSCR Girls Inc. coordinator. “They are a part of a sisterhood with hundreds of other local strong, smart and bold girls. 

 Having the opportunity to work directly with the Girls Inc. program over the last seven years, especially in the last year, has been very impactful on who I am as a woman, a leader and a mother.”

Data, alongside societal attitudes and stereotypes, often present a negative picture for young Black girls.  They include a wide academic achievement gap separating them from their white peers. Higher rates of discipline and absenteeism. Discrimination by other students, teachers and the larger community. A recent Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality study even indicated that Black girls are perceived as more aggressive and sexual – less innocent – than white girls.

The local sisterhood clubs’ aim to encourage Black girls to explore and embrace their racial identity.

 “I’m grateful to work for MSCR and with Girls Inc. of Greater Madison because both organizations encourage creative, outside of the box thinking and believe at their core that this program is important and impactful,” Smith said. “They say “yes” to me every time I throw out a larger-than-life idea. That’s empowering in itself.

“All three of my daughters have been involved in Girls Inc. and it’s been such a positive experience for them to learn from strong, smart and bold women and girls. There’s a certain strength that comes from being a “Girls Inc. girl” and I’m so proud that I get to be a part of it,” Smith added.

The feedback is positive. Girls are learning “to love myself,” described Maia, a 4th grader at Nuestro Mundo Elementary School. 

“Be confident” and “if you can put your mind to it you can do anything,” described Julia, a second grader at Schenk Elementary School.  

Pahoua Vang, assistant director of Girls Inc. Of Greater Madison, says, “Our comprehensive approach to whole girl development equips girls to navigate gender, economic and social barriers, and grow up healthy, educated and independent. Girls today face real and profound challenges to their well-being and success, including sexual harassment and violence, inequitable access to education, mental health issues, teen pregnancy and limiting stereotypes and messages. Girls living in poverty are at increased risk of chronic health and psychological disorders, higher rates of violence and crime, lower rates of high school completion and limited access to economic and social capital necessary to thrive. At Girls Inc., girls-only spaces are designed with the unique needs of girls in mind, to help provide physical and emotional safety, increase self-esteem and positive decision making, create social support networks and allow girls to discover their strengths and their voices.”

MSCR Girls Inc. is hosting additional exciting, themed events: Virtual Paint Night on May 13, Virtual Animal Show with Zoozort on May 25 and Virtual STEM Night on June 1. These events complement the recorded activity sessions available on the Girls Inc. website that focus  on career exploration through the remainder of the school year.  

MSCR is proud to teach girls to be active, healthy and happy and to be offering accessible programming. To learn more about these innovative programs contact Leslie Smith at or go to 

MSCR Girls Inc. is supported by a Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant 

MSCR’s mission is to provide accessible and affordable recreation and afterschool programs.  MSCR provides childcare and enriching afterschool programming at seventeen elementary age sites (including two community centers), twelve middle schools and four high schools in the Madison School District. For more information on afterschool programs please go to or call 608-204-3000. 

Girls Inc. of Greater Madison is a Goodman Community Center program and inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold. Girls Inc. is a national organization that develops research-based informal education programs that encourage girls to take risks and master physical, intellectual and emotional challenges. These programs address math and science education, pregnancy and drug abuse prevention, media literacy, economic literacy, adolescent health, violence prevention, and sports participation. Please go to for more information.