Strong, Smart and Bold

Siouxland Magazine had the opportunity to connect with Mandy Engel-Cartie, Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Sioux City. Join in the conversation below and continue the conversation by reaching out to Girls Inc of Sioux City.

Siouxland Magazine (SM):   Your mission statement says “Inspiring girls to be strong, smart and bold”. Tell me more about that. Why those adjectives?

Mandy Engel-Cartie (MEC):   I love our mission statement because it’s not jargon and it truly describes what we do each day for girls. To expand, we have specific outcomes for each of those key words – strong, smart, and bold.  

Strong Outcomes 

  • improved body image
  • prevention/knowledge of the dangers of unhealthy choices
  • increased level of physical activity

Smart Outcomes 

  • an improved outlook and performance in school
  • having set personal, educational, and career goals
  • an improved academic/school performance, and 
  • having educational aspirations beyond high school

Bold Outcomes 

  • see themselves as leaders
  • demonstrate increased persistence and resilience
  • have positive relationship with adults 
  • stand up for themselves, others, fairness, and their beliefs 
  • participate or have as a goal to participate in civic responsibilities like voting, giving back to the community, and being positive change agents.

SM:  So, you focus on the physical, intellectual, and emotional growth of girls.

MEC:  Our activities, programs, and pretty much everything we plan for and implement springs from that phrase.

SM:  How long do most girls engage with Girls Inc?  Is it years or months?

MEC:  Keep in mind that many of our girls must move suddenly or frequently because of circumstances out of their control, mostly related to economic deprivation. Some are in foster care or out-of-home placement. Like many youth-serving organizations, we struggle to keep girls over the age 13. I believe our average (over the past 10 years) is 3 years of attendance. Also, some girls come only in the summer or only during the school year for a variety of reasons.  

What is interesting to me is that anecdotally so many girls tell us that they stopped attending because they had to babysit siblings. They are expected to help their working parents by providing free childcare.  Even girls who are currently members often say they must stay home from school to care for a sibling who is too sick to attend school.

SM:  What do you hope is the result of each girls’ interactions with Girls Inc?

MEC:  I hope every girl gains the knowledge, confidence, and grit to pursue her best life, no matter what circumstances she has faced or will face in her future. I hope every girl knows she can make the world a better place and has the tools she needs to take action. I hope every girl maintains the resilience we work to instill with her throughout her life. I hope each girl will grow up knowing that she is special for her individuality, for what she can do and for the person she is inside. I hope each girl knows we care.

SM:  The materials you provided mention “mutual respect and high expectations” several times.  What does that mean? Why is it a focus?

MEC:  Both empathy and respect are critical skills that all children need to learn about and practice in a safe place. Through instruction and example, we strive to show girls that respecting themselves and others is the foundation of making a positive difference each day – respecting different opinions, different backgrounds, different ways of doing things, and different abilities.  

Setting high expectations simply means we believe every girl can achieve her full potential and we challenge our members to do that. Together, these can create an environment where girls feel free to be themselves, to try, to sometimes fail, to learn, and ultimately to succeed. We are all about the growth mindset at Girls Inc.!

SM:  Why Girls Only?

MEC:   That’s a common question. We all know that girls can be under a lot of pressure in our society. Sadly, competition is still encouraged between girls based on who is prettiest and the most popular. An all-girls space lets girls explore who they really are outside of this dynamic. Girls have a safe space to talk about and work through issues that they are dealing with like self-esteem, their bodies and body image, puberty, sexuality, and healthy relationships.

Research indicates that boys tend to dominate programs designed for youth. Girls Inc. creates a unique environment where girls can share their experiences, practice many skills including leadership, and take part in activities with other girls who share many of their experiences and challenges, all with outstanding role models in a safe environment. 

SM:  How does Girls Inc. impact the Siouxland area? Or more bluntly – why should people care about the work of Girls Inc.?

MEC:  I’m so glad you asked! Our alums who have come back to work for us during and after college tell us that Girls Inc. helped shape their lives in a positive way, especially through substance abuse prevention and pregnancy prevention classes. They also site our financial literacy programs as being very helpful as they transitioned to adulthood.

SM:  What are your greatest needs as an organization? How can people help support Girls Inc.?

MEC:  As with any nonprofit, financial resources are always the greatest challenge, especially this year. Because of Covid-19, we are shifting from after-school only to an all-day, academically-based programs for families who have enrolled their children in virtual-only programs. It’s an expensive, unbudgeted proposition, but we believe it’s the best way to help support our girls, working families, the schools, and the community.  

While the girls we serve are a very diverse group, membership fees only account for roughly 10% of operating costs.  The remaining 90% must come from donors, grants, and other unearned revenue.

There are other needs that arise from time to time and the best way to keep abreast of those needs is to follow us on Facebook or sign up on

By Dr. Cyndi Hanson

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