INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL

On this International Day of the Girl, we take you to an all-girls school on the Lower East Side that is defying the odds and helping young women to chase their dreams.

Aired on October 12, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

HI EVERYONE.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL!

MORE THAN 98 MILLION ADOLESCENT GIRLS AREN'T IN SCHOOL YET THE EVIDENCE IS CLEAR.

WHEN GIRLS GET THE OPPORTUNITIES THEY DESERVE, OUR WHOLE WORLD BENEFITS.

THAT'S WHY WE'VE BEEN WORKING TO LIFT UP GRASSROOTS LEADERS AND ORGANIZATIONS AROUND THE WORLD WHO IMPROVE GIRLS' LIVES EVERY DAY.

TODAY, ON THE DAY OF THE GIRL, I AM THRILLED TO SHARE THE NEWS THAT IN DECEMBER I'LL BE TRAVELING TO VIETNAM WITH MY FRIEND JENNA BUSH HAGER AND A FEW OTHER SPECIAL GUESTS, TOO.

THE OBAMA FOUNDATION WILL BE TEAMING UP WITH THE 'TODAY' SHOW AND YOUTUBE ORIGINALS TO MEET SOME OF THESE GIRLS AND SHARE THEIR INCREDIBLE STORIES WITH ALL OF YOU.

NOW, IN THE MEANTIME, I HOPE THAT ALL OF YOU WILL FIND A WAY TO SUPPORT THESE GIRLS.

AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO FLY TO VIETNAM.

YOU CAN HOST A BAKE SALE, HELP YOUR CHILDREN ORGANIZE A PROJECT IN THEIR CLASSROOM, OR GET INVOLVED IN YOUR OFFICE, AS WELL.

VISIT GIRLSOPPORTUNITYALLIANCE.ORG TO FIND OUT MORE WAYS TO TAKE ACTION.

ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR US ALL.

THE FUTURE OF OUR WORLD IS ONLY AS BRIGHT AS OUR GIRLS.

A DISTRESSING STATISTIC ON THE STATE OF NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS.

ONLY 61% OF STUDENTS RECEIVE HIGH SCHOOL DEGREES.

BUT ONE PRIVATE INSTITUTION THAT AIMS TO HELP YOUNG UNDERPRIVILEGED GIRLS BOOSTS A STUNNING 97% GRADUATION RATE.

CHASING THE DREAM, POVERTY, AND OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA, WE EXPLORE TODAY CORNELLIA CONLEY CENTER.

CONLEY CENTER CHAMPIONS GIRLS AT RISK AND EMPOWERING THEM TO REALIZE THEIR FULL POTENTIAL FROM MIDDLE SCHOOL, COLLEGE, AND BEYOND.

IT TEACHES GRADES 4 THROUGH 8 BUT THEIR WORK DOESN'T STOP THERE.

STUDENT GOES ON TO ATTEND PRESTIGIOUS HIGH SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES.

HERE TO TELL US MORE IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CAROLINE.

LAYS, WELCOME TO YOU.

THANK YOU.

TO ME, IT WAS JAW DROPPING.

AND THE NUMBER OFS I CAN UNDERSTAND AFTER HAVING SEEN THAT.

I GOT A SENSE IN WANDERING AROUND THE HALLWAYS AND WATCHING YOU ALL THERE THAT YOU ALL FELT THIS PLACE WAS MORE THAN A SCHOOL.

IS THAT RIGHT?

LIKE A SECOND HOME.

I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE SOMETIMES.

THEY'RE LIKE YOU HAVE TO GO HOME.

HOW MANY TIMES DO PEOPLE SAY I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE SCHOOL.

NOT A LOT BUT YOU DO.

YOU HAVE GONE THERE, GRADUATED FROM EIGHTH GRADE, HIGH SCHOOL, AND HOLY CROSS.

JUST LAST YEAR.

YEAH.

MARVELOUS.

WHEN YOU FIRST SHOWED UP AT THAT THE SCHOOL, WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT IT?

I THOUGHT THAT IT WAS A SECOND HOME.

I FELT EVERY PERSON AT THE SCHOOL WANTED TO GET TO KNOW YOU ON A PERSONAL LEVEL.

AND THE FIRST TIME WE HAD ASSEMBLY, WHICH IS OUR MORNING TAKE ATTENDANCE, THE FACT THAT EVERY STAFF MEMBER KNEW YOUR NAME AND MENTIONED YOUR NAME IN THE MORNING, TO THE POINT WHERE IF I WAS MISSING, PEOPLE WOULD NOTICE.

YOU KNOW, THAT WAS INCREDIBLE TO ME.

WHAT IS THERE, THEN, IN ADDITION TO THE COMFORT IN TERMS OF THE ACADEMICS THAT ALLOW PEOPLE LIKE YOU TO BE SO SUCCESSFUL?

I THINK THEY JUST PUSH US.

AS A FIFTH GRADER, I WASN'T PERFORMING ON GRADE LEVEL.

I WOULD BE PULLED OUT OF CLASS TO WORK ON MY READING, ON MY WRITING, AND, TO ME, IT WAS THE FIRST TIME IT HAPPENED TO ME FOR SOMEONE TO ACKNOWLEDGE WHERE THE GAPS WERE IN MY EDUCATION AND TO MEET WITH MY PARENTS AND TELL THEM THIS IS WHERE JENNA IS STRUGGLING.

THIS IS WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO TO HELP HER.

THAT WAS FIFTH GRADE.

BY THE TIME I WAS IN EIGHTH GRADE IT WAS PUSHING ME TO WORK HARDER AND HARDER AND SEEING SOMETHING IN ME I DIDN'T NECESSARILY SEE AT THE TIME.

I ALWAYS TALK ABOUT HOW THE SCHOOL, OUR CENTER AIMS TO SEE THE FLAME IN EACH GIRL.

THAT POTENTIAL IN EACH GIRL.

AND THEY SAW IT IN ME.

I DIDN'T NECESSARILY IN MIDDLE SCHOOL I DIDN'T SEE MYSELF SAYING I'M GOING TO GRADUATE FROM THE COLLEGE OF HOLY CROSS OR EVEN COLLEGE, LIKE, AS A THING WASN'T NECESSARILY -- THEY TELL US YOU'RE GOING TO DO AMAZING THINGS.

I'M LIKE YEAH SURE.

THAT MEANS IN HIGH SCHOOL, TOO, WHEN I WOULD COME BACK, THEY WOULD ASK ME HOW IS SCHOOL GOING?

WHERE ARE YOU STRUGGLING?

LET'S GET YOU A TUTOR.

LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THE NOTION OF FOLLOWING THROUGH.

TO SAY WE'RE GOING TO COMMIT TO PROVIDE GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT WITH THEM.

NOT JUST THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL, AS YOU SAID.

NOT JUST THROUGH COLLEGE BUT, ALSO, TO THEIR LIVES AFTER IT.

HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

THE REALITY, WE'RE SMALL BUT MIGHTY.

THE REASON WE CAN DO THIS GOOD WORK AND FOLLOW THE GIRLS IS THAT WE'RE SMALL.

I THINK FOR ME THE NEXT FIVEOVER TEN YEARS PEOPLE NEED TO SEE THIS MODEL BECAUSE IT WORKS.

THE KEY IS SMALL AND PERSONAL.

LET ME COME BACK TO YOU.

YOU HAVE FRIENDS WHO ARE NOT PART OF THIS SCHOOL.

THEY SAY YOUR SCHOOL SOUNDS INTERESTING.

IT SOUNDS DIFFERENT.

WHAT IS IT LIKE?

HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER THAT QUESTION?

I HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT SAY THAT TOW ME.

I SAY THANKS.

THE THING IS, MY SCHOOL IS VERY DIFFERENT.

WE HAVE TEACHERS WHO CARE AND WE HAVE HOPE AND GUIDANCE THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE YEAR.

I THINK THE FACT I GET TO COME IN EARLY TO GET EXTRA HELP IN MATH AND THE TEACHERS ARE THERE TO HELP ME.

IT'S AN EXCELLENT THING FOR MY GRADES.

YOU FIND YOU HAVE ALL THE OPPORTUNITIES YOU WANT TO HAVE IN THIS SCHOOL?

YES.

WE HAVE EXTRA GUIDANCE IN WHAT SHALL I WANT TO ATTEND TO AND WHAT COLLEGE DO I WANT TO GO TO.

AND -- IT HELPS ME GET TO KNOW MYSELF BSHT AND TO KNOW HOW TO TELL OTHER SCHOOLS ABOUT MYSELF.

LOOKING BACK, WOULD YOU HAVE GRADUATED FROM HOLY CROSS IF YOU HADN'T BEEN TO THIS SCHOOL?

ABSOLUTELY NOT.

I HAD NEVER HEARD OF COLLEGE OF HOLY CROSS UNTIL I WENT TO CCC.

I THINK I WAS IN SEVENTH GRADE.

THEY TOOK US ON A COLLEGE TRIP AND I REMEMBER COMING HOME AND SAYING IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL CAMPUS.

THAT'S WHERE I'M GOING TO SCHOOL.

MY MOM WAS LIKE THAT'S SWEET.

I SAID THAT COLLEGE STOOD OUT TO ME AND I WANT TO GO THERE.

I WANT TO LIVE THAT MISSION.

AND I DO NOT THINK THAT I WOULD HAVE GONE THERE IF IT WEREN'T FOR CCC

WELL, HAVING VISITED FOR A LITTLE BIT OF TIME, I SAW THE JOY AND THE EXPECTATIONS.

05 SAW THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS.

YOU SHOULD BE CONGRATULATED AND YOUR STAFF AND EVERYBODY WHO WORKS THERE.

WE'RE GOING IT SEE WONDERFUL THINGS FROM YOU JUST AS WE'RE SEEING WONDERFUL THINGS FROM HER.

GRADUATIONS TO YOU.

GOOD LUCK TO YOU.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANK YOU.

AND TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW YOU CAN HELP, GO TO OUR WEBSITE METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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