PEARLS for Teen Girls

Improving quality of life and strengthening the community one girl at a time by empowering young women to reach their full potential.
"When you believe in yourself, anything is possible and PEARLS helped me learn to do that."
– Austiana, PEARLS alumnae and past staff member
The Problem

Many girls are going through life with a survival mentality, searching for ways to navigate the poverty, food and housing insecurity, struggling schools, high crimes and family distress that marks their lives. Many will drop out of high school or experience teen pregnancy, putting them at a disadvantage to succeed. Without proper direction and a supportive community, they are at risk of falling through the cracks.

The Solution

Every young woman has unique gifts, talents and strengths that when supported, build self-confidence and increase their ability to succeed. PEARLS for Teen Girls, a nonprofit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, provides a supportive community for teen girls facing immense challenges to realizing their full potential. PEARLS aims to combat generational cycles of poverty and hopelessness through the values of PEARLS—Personal Responsibility, Empathy, Respect, Leadership and Support.

Intergenerational girls-only groups provide a safe space to explore healthy relationships, self-esteem building and goal setting through a research-based curriculum to support the girls to building a better future. Academic success is also key to PEARLS programming. College prep events, campus visits, job shadowing, networking events and mentoring help girls build a path to reaching their goals.

That is what sets PEARLS apart from the rest: They don’t use a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to reach their girls and they don’t prescribe goals and dreams to them. They focus on the girl’s voice, empowering each girl to shape their own path. PEARLS listens to each girl to discover what they want to achieve—be it a better home life, success in school or better self-esteem—and endows them with the resources and guidance to achieve those goals. PEARLS girls develop the social, emotional, and intellectual tools to help them create a positive life vision, develop success skills and serve as community role models.

The Story

PEARLS for Teen Girls was founded in 1993 by local entrepreneur and Executive Coach, Colleen Fitzgerald. The first PEARLS group was launched as an after-school program for girls at Jackie Robinson Middle School in 1993, with the intention of providing at-risk girls with a safe space to discuss their challenges in life, set goals and build trusting relationships and self-confidence. Since then, PEARLS has grown from helping dozens of girls a year to helping thousands, with the dream of being able to serve girls all over the world.

Stand Together Foundation Partnership

PEARLS for Teen Girls is a 2017 Stand Together Foundation Catalyst. Through participation in the Catalyst Program, PEARLS receives training from industry experts in organizational development, branding, measurement and growth, and strategic relationships to amplify their impact and strategically expand their reach.

Milwaukee, WI
est. 1993
Gerry A. Howze
Executive Director
Read bio
Gerry Howze strives to change the world through developing meaningful relationships that facilitate inspirational growth for all. Her path began as a teen mom at Aurora Family Services, where she ended up wearing many hats such as Volunteer Peer Facilitator, Lead Trainer for the Nurturing Program, Fund Development Assistant and KIDS FIRST Coalition Coordinator, leading her to PEARLS for Teen Girls as the first Program Coordinator and then first Director of Program Services. She worked toward her B.A. in Human Services from Springfield College and served as the Director at Goldin COA Youth & Family Center and Hillside Boys & Girls Club Manager before returning to PEARLS as Executive Director.
Success Metrics
of PEARLS girls will achieve the long-term goal they set for themselves each year.
high school graduation rate
of girls do not get pregnant
on track for college success
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