PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Sixteen-year old Destiny is well named. Four-years ago she became one of Gwen’s Girls.
“I’ve learned a lot of dos and don’ts since I’ve been a Gwen’s Girl,” Destiny said. “It’s very well structured.”
Destiny was referred to the program by Allegheny County Children, Youth and Family Services.
“Being a Gwen’s Girl, for me, means carry yourself like a lady, be a lady, be responsible, communicate.”
It also means being the best you can be.
“Yes ma’m, report cards came out yesterday – 3.8 (GPA),” Destiny said.
A decade ago, retiring Pittsburgh Police commander Gwen Elliott transformed her long support of struggling young women and girls into brick and mortar.
Based in two handsome houses in Point Breeze, Gwen’s Girls is making a huge difference.
Gwen Elliott died in 2007, but her loving legacy continues. Since its beginning more than 1,600 girls — mostly from neighborhoods coping with poverty, drugs and violence — have benefited from wide-ranging gender specific programs.
“We realized that girls eventually become mothers and mothers are the bedrock of the family, they are the linchpin,” says Executive Director, Lynn Knezevich.
“And if the mother’s strong, the family’s gonna be strong and then the community’s gonna be strong.”
Because of the Gwen’s Girls “safety net,” 100 percent of seniors in the program graduated from high school, 50 percent have chosen to go on to post-secondary education, 95 percent did not become pregnant. and 94 percent did not become involved with the juvenile justice system again.
Adds Knezevich, “From prevention services — and we also have residential services — and foster care.”
“I have dreams, I have big dreams,” says Destiny.
Dreams of becoming a Bio-Engineer or vet tech and giving back.
“I want to be the one to say, ‘Hey! I can make a difference.’ I can use what I’m taught and create something out of it.”
If you’d like to help support the Gwen’s Girls legacy a 10th Anniversary Gala will be held at the Frick Fine Arts Museum in Point Breeze on Saturday, May 19th.