Today we’d like to introduce you to Chez Smith.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Chez. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My story starts at one of the busiest Family Planning clinics in the Midwest located at Stroger hospital where I served as an administrator. It’s there where I saw the need for more adolescent reproductive health education in the inner city. I created the Gyrls In The H.O.O.D. (Healthy Optimistic Outstanding Determined) Foundation to improve reproductive health outcomes amongst adolescent females residing in urban areas considered “hood”. We do this through community service, events, and our signature program Degrees B4 Diapers. We started out with distributing condoms and pamphlets on bus stops and now our program is implemented at Ombudsman School.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Funding is our biggest obstacle. We are actively seeking donations, grants, and sponsorship.
Another challenge has been convincing some adults that our services are needed. We live in a highly sexualized society yet are surprised that teens are engaging in sexual behaviors that place them at risk for HIV/STIs, unintended pregnancies, and poor maternal health outcomes. I believe that once we tone down the judgement of our girls we can focus more on helping them.
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We provide our population with straightforward facts about their reproductive health without judgement. Through our medical partnerships we provide STI testing and have identified over 40 teens in the community with active infections.
**Most proud of**
Ombudsman School West Campus leadership recognized not only the needs of their students but the value of our program and brought us on as a community partner, so far, it’s been a great collaboration. The students their are participating in our Degrees B4 Diapers program with enthusiasm and I’m very proud of the progress they’re making. Graduates of this program receive a variety of gifts including sneakers from our community partner DTLR.
We also aim to redefine negative stereotypes placed on our gyrls based on their zip codes. Through our annual She’s So H.O.O.D. Award Show we highlight teens who manage to excel despite their circumstances. Honorees have the opportunity to intern with the premier PR company, Favor Consulting Group.
Lastly, we plant the seeds of community service in our participants by creating and participating in community service events. We partnered with DTLR to bring “Christmas in Chatham” a few months ago. Together we provided a wonderful party for residents of a local shelter that included a visit from Chance The Rapper.
I think that what sets us apart is our willingness to meet girls where they are. We don’t judge them based on past choices we are more concerned with helping them make better ones.
I’m also proud of the fact that we’ve been featured on Windy City Live, DNAinfo, True Star Magazine in addition to being recognized by the American Red Cross in less than a year.
What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was shy and I still am!
- There is no cost for teens to participate in our programs. Please email us for sponsorship opportunities.
- Website: www.gyrlsinthehood.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @gyrlsnthehood
- Facebook: Gyrls In The HOOD
- Twitter: Gyrlsnthehood