Impact Stories


2023 Scholars

Kayla Salazar recipient of a $25,000 Suzanne Patmore Gibbs Scholarship and our local Girls Inc. Jackie McManus Memorial Scholarship for $5,000

Kayla Salazar, was chosen as a 2023 Girls Inc. National Scholar and awarded a $25,000 Suzanne Patmore Gibbs Courage Scholarship. She wasselected for her outstanding academic achievements, community service work, and dedication to the Girls Inc. mission of inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Kayla is one of three Girls Inc. SPG National Scholars selected in 2023 from across the United States and Canada.

In 2022, Kayla was also a Girls Inc. National Scholar and awarded a $5,000 Girls Inc. Lucile Miller Wright Scholarship and our local Girls Inc. Jackie McManus Memorial Scholarship for $5,000.

Kayla is currently attending UCLA.

Kayla credits Girls Inc. for helping her find a safe space where she could learn and be a leader, Kayla says, “Girls Inc. gave me the opportunity to become a youth leader where I facilitate workshops at the very same middle school I attended! It is fulfilling to help my community and younger peers avoid drug usage. Instead of falling into a statistic, Girls Inc. inspired me to make healthy choices, resist negative pressures, and aid others. Most importantly, I realized that I do not have to follow in other’s footsteps and that I can shape my own future.”

Vanessa Campos Recipient of a $5,000 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship and also awarded our local Girls Inc. Jackie McManus Memorial Scholarship for $4,000

Vanessa shares, “At Girls Inc. I was able to express my opinions and emotions without the pressure of people staring or making sarcastic, disparaging comments. The warm, welcoming energy of the Girls Inc. staff made me feel safe and willing to open up with my fellow peers. Through Girls Inc. I also gained new knowledge, and skills that helped me deepen my relationship with my mother, understand my father’s situation and work better with my peers and those younger than I.”

Vanessa will be attending UC Davis in Fall of 2023


Chinemerem Elelleh Recipient of a $5,000 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship and also awarded our local Girls Inc. Jackie McManus Memorial Scholarship for $5,000 in 2022

Chinemerem shares, “The benefits of Girls Inc. cannot be overemphasized. I grew and learned a lot with each of the Girls Inc. programs. Each program was an opportunity for me to improve my character, learn to work with others, and be more independent of my family. For those reasons, I wanted to become a youth leader to give back all that I gained from the Girls Inc. programs. I learned to be enthusiastic, lead by example, and contribute meaningfully to my community and the society at large. Girls Inc. encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and experience that “variety IS the spice of life.”

Chinemerem will be attending UC Davis in Fall of 2023.


Kayla Salazar recipient of a $5,000 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship and also awarded our local Girls Inc. Jackie McManus Memorial Scholarship for $5,000

Kayla was bullied every day in middle school, but after finding Girls Inc., she learned that many bullies are insecure themselves

“Girls Inc. helped me realize that my bully is a human being

who hurt me because of her wounds.” Kayla also learned to stand up for herself. Years later, she walked up to her former bully, introduced herself, and embraced her with kindness. Kayla also says that experience also helped her extreme fear of public speaking.

In middle school, she was paralyzed with fear when she raised her hand in class. After learning how to do public speaking at Girls Inc., Kayla re-started her school’s Speech and Debate Club and became its president for two years.

When Kayla saw another shy girl at the Club, she tutored her, and that girl won the championship.

Kayla’s dream is to earn a Ph. D. in history and to highlight the histories of people of color who have often been erased from our textbooks. Stay tuned as we find out which college Kayla will chose for the fall

Natalie Cerna recipient of a $5,000 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship and also awarded our local Girls Inc. Jackie McManus Memorial Scholarship for $5,000

Natalie Cerna felt isolated and lonely as the only Czech-American student in her school, but after she got on the bus to go to the Girls Inc. Smart Choices Summer Camp at the University of California Santa Cruz, she discovered that she loves sharing ideas, being with other people and following her passions in every aspect of her life. “This organization has prepared me to change the world, and that is exactly what I plan to do. Girls Inc. encountered a timid girl, and because of the women I’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned, the world gets to see a resilient and passionate woman, the most authentic, true me.”

Natalie joined the ECHO Leadership Mentoring program and loves teaching other girls. Even as a little kid, Natalie would create lesson plans in her bedroom, and then she lined up her stuffed animals and taught them. Her goal now is to become an English teacher.

“I live for the gentle buzz of my mind when I am learning something particularly challenging, and I want to help others find the same.”

Natalie will be attending the Anglo-American University (Malá Strana, Czechia) in Fall of 2023

2021 Scholars

Catalina Perez recipient of a $25,000 Suzanne Patmore Gibbs Scholarship

Catalina Perez shared that joining Girls Inc. in fifth grade became a turning point not only for her but for her family when a session on substance abuse helped her connect her father with resources to overcome alcoholism. Catalina says, “Without Girls Inc. I wouldn’t be as informed about my own body, finances, policy making, healthy relationships, and my world.” As part of her high school’s Teen Leadership Council, Catalina has been involved in several community service projects including the 2020 Census. She also volunteers as a patient companion at her local hospital. Catalina plans to improve access to healthcare for children and families in her community by becoming a social worker. Catalina demonstrates a deep determination to help others and a commitment to social justice and hopes to study Public Health. Catalina is one of 3 Girls Inc. SPG National Scholars selected in 2021 from across the United States and Canada.

The Girls Inc. Suzanne Patmore Gibbs Scholarship program was created in 2018 in memory of the long-time supporter. The scholarship is awarded to Girls Inc. girls who have the courage to dream big and have a character consistent with Suzanne Patmore Gibbs. “She was a fierce advocate for all that is right and good in this world. She fought for women’s voices before it was a popular thing to do. She was incredibly brave, and she stood up for what she believed in.”


Zena Al-Saidali Recipient of a $5,000 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

Zena Al-Saidali felt at home, welcomed, and appreciated through Girls Inc. She says Girls Inc. pulled her out of a darkness, opened its arms widely and gave her a big welcome hug. Through the program, she gained confidence and was introduced to college life. She adds that being in an all-girl setting eliminated the pressure, shyness and comparison that occurs when boys are present. She felt more engaged to ask questions and understand how to make the right choices for herself instead of ignoring her concerns. Zena shares, “Girls Inc. assured me of how Strong, Smart and Bold I am.”


Hala Al-Saidali Recipient of a $5,000 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

Hala Al-Saidali shares how she found a supportive community at Girls Inc. where she felt empowered to speak up for those who cannot. Her goal is to pursue a career in medicine to help alleviate the health issues of refugees and possibly work in a health center in an underserved community. Hala shares, “All the knowledge gained from Girls Inc. not only affected my life but the lives of those who come in contact with me. I can proudly say “I am Girls Inc., Strong, Smart, & Bold.”


2020 Scholars

Arianna Campos Recipient of a $1,500 Scholarship from Girls Inc. of the Central Coast Scholarships in Memory of Jackie McManus.

Arianna has been in Girls Inc. since she was in the 7th grade. At Girls Inc. she learned how to stand up for herself and not allow others to have power over her. As a youth Leader she finds comfort in knowing that she is doing the same for other girls in her community and because of her work as a youth leader, her goal is to become a social worker and continue to help others.  She will be attending CSUMB in the Fall 2020.

“Girls Inc. helped me discover more in depth what I wanted for myself, what my entire life would possibly be, and who I wanted to be. Through Girls Inc. I was able to grow and break through some tough times in my life. I am STRONG because I grew into the independent woman I am today. I am SMART because I won’t let what anyone says be held against me. I am BOLD because I inspire young girls to discover themselves into becoming STRONG, SMART, and BOLD girls.”


Alexis Campos Recipient of a $2,000 Scholarship from Girls Inc. of the Central Coast Scholarships in Memory of Jackie McManus.

Alexis began her journey with Girls Inc. in middle school as a 7th grader. She credits the program with helping her deal with her anxiety, grow out of her shell, and gain the confidence she needed to stand up and lead her own group of participants as a Youth Leader. Alexis no longer hold back, but instead challenges herself to become the best example to her peers. She has a passion of helping others has led her to pursue a career as a social worker and will be attending CSUMB in the Fall 2020.

“Girls Inc. was a program I didn’t know I needed in my life. I loved how Girls Inc. taught me to step outside of my comfort zone. I was able to hone my public speaking skills by coming up with and delivering my own speech on the in front of the girls. It was encouraging to know that none of them were judging me. The program helped prepare us for interviews by teaching us about the power pose, what to wear, and what to say. We also talked about college, health, healthy and unhealthy relationships, careers, and how we can use our voices to affect change.”


Maria Chino Recipient of a $2,000 Scholarship from Girls Inc. of the Central Coast Scholarships in Memory of Jackie McManus.

Maria has participated in the Girls Inc. programs since she was in middle school and has been a Youth Leader for the past 2 years in the high school program. Maria found a support system at Girls Inc. She found a judgment free space where she could be herself and where she could grow and embrace her flaws, she has learned to love and accept herself for her who she is. When she became a Youth Leader for peers in high school, she made it a goal to do the same for other girls and has worked so hard to make this a memorable and special program for her own participants.  Maria plans to attend college in Sacramento in the Fall 2020 and further her education to become a child psychologist.

“Girls Inc. has been my biggest support system; I have met great mentors and friends along my journey.  This journey started as a seventh grader from a flyer I saw during my English class. I was curious about what Girls Inc. was, since I did not have many friends and I saw this as an opportunity to meet new people. During the first few meetings, I realized Girls Inc. was a non-judgmental and safe place that felt like home. I participated in “Will Power/Won’t Power” and in “Friendly PEERsuasion”, these programs helped me find resources for bullying, depression, and sexual harassment. I was encouraged to speak up if I was ever in an unpleasant situation.”


Clarissa Medina Recipient of a $3,000 Scholarship from Girls Inc. of the Central Coast Scholarships in Memory of Jackie McManus.

Clarissa has been with Girls Inc. since middle school. When Clarissa began her journey, it was hard for her to open up and speak up for herself, she felt like she did not have a voice. When she was introduced to her Youth Leaders, she aspired to follow their example and grow to be confident leader to provide a safe space for other girls that felt just like her. Clarissa aspires to become a lawyer in the future and is currently selecting a college she will attend in the Fall 2020.

“I didn’t like who I was and how I felt about myself, but I didn’t know how to go about changing myself until I saw the youth leaders from ECHO recruiting us freshmen girls for the sophomore program. These young girls were about my age, but they were wearing professional attire which gave them a completely different aura other than a typical teenager. My initial encounter with them showed me they were confident, enthusiastic, and comfortable speaking in front of a big group of people. That’s when I knew I wanted to be just like them: self-assured, passionate, and poised. These young women caught my attention and I could not wait to start the ECHO program. Girls Inc. has been my safe space for five years, this program has nurtured me during my caterpillar years and developed me into a strong, smart and bold young lady.”


2019 Scholars

Jenaye Brelland Recipient of a $20,000 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

Jenaye Brelland has been involved in Girls Inc. since 7th grade. She developed a strong passion for the Girls Inc. mission and is a role model for all the girls she has touched. We had the honor of seeing her take on the leadership role of Youth Leader, becoming a mentor and guide for both high school and middle school girls. She has grown into an amazing young woman.

“I can’t stress enough of how much Girls Inc. means to me. Girls Inc. provided me with the support to recover from the loss of friendship. Whenever I thought I was a horrible human being, my mentors in Girls Inc. were there to tell me that I can improve and that what I was in the past does not define what I can bring to my future. Through the Create My Future module, my self-demeaning thoughts slowly transformed into affirmations that motivated me to create goals for myself. My grades started to improve from the motivated rush I got when learning about college in Girls Inc. Every Monday Girls Inc. was my outlet, my safe space, and my home.” -Jenaye Brelland


2018 Scholars

Rosaisela Barroso Recipient of a $20,000 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

Rosaisela Barroso began her journey with Girls Inc. in middle school. She credits her involvement in Girls Inc. with helping come out of her shell and become the strong young women she is today.

“Girls Inc. for me has gone beyond words can explain. The organization has developed my confidence and given me courage to attempt things I used to fear. This has given me self-esteem, that good feeling about myself that I never experienced prior to Girls Inc. For me, this has given me a voice. If someone had told me four years ago that I would be facilitating to a group of high school girls, my peers, and that I would have become their mentor, I would have laughed and thought “Never!.” But with Girls Inc. in my corner I know I have the support I need to overcome any obstacle that comes my way. That this strong, smart, and bold girl can do anything!”

Rosaisela will be attending UC Davis this fall of 2018.


2013 Scholars

Angelica Villegas Recipient of a $5,000 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

Angelica Villegas has participated in Girls Inc. programs since she was in middle school, she has been a Youth Leader for the middle school programs for 2 years.

“From the beginning of this program I started to feel more confident and started to see that I had potential. I know now that I can achieve great things in life. Girls Inc. has opened my eyes and helped me realize I can make a difference for other girls. I, a girl with knowledge can make myself go anywhere in life. Participating in Girls Inc. has made me gain knowledge, learning abilities and the love from the participants. Girls Inc. has opened so many doors in my life.” – Angelica Villegas


Kaitlin Harvey Recipient of a $5,000 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

Kaitlin Harvey has been with Girls Inc. of the Central Coast for over 3 years as a participant and Youth Leader for the high school program.

“This program has shed light on so many topics for young ladies including myself. It is especially so much fun to work with girls around my age, watching them discover and learn something insightful. It has been a wonderful experience and I will cherish all the memories and practice the lessons for the rest of my life. Girls Inc. has really positively impacted my live and put me on the road map to success.” – Kaitlin Harvey


2012 Scholars

Jamie Walker Recipient of a $2500 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

“Girls Inc. has given me a safe place, somewhere where I was listened to and felt like I belonged.”

Her Story: Jamie joined Girls Inc. as a way to try something new and find a supportive space lacking in her life, and her involvement quickly became much more than one leadership/mentoring program. Jamie explored topics such as career options and how to prepare for college, personal health, self-defense, public speaking, and how to prepare for a job interview. As a Youth Leader, she worked with younger girls by facilitating programs around substance abuse prevention and tackling peer pressure.

Her Future: Jamie is a student at California State University Fresno where she is studying Criminology.


2011 Scholars

Estefania Cabrera Recipient of a $2500 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

“I joined Girls Inc. hoping to experience a new environment and increase my self-esteem but I gained much more than that.”

Estefania Cabrera started her involvement with Girls Inc. in the summer of 2007. Through Girls Inc. she became a more confident and strong young women. She was able to practice her public speaking skills and gained the courage to stand up and speak up. Through the program Estefania gained the knowledge on various topics such as culture, women’s health and fitness, public speaking, interview skills, how a bill becomes a law, and writing a resume.

Estefania will be attending UC San Diego this fall 2011.


2010 Scholars

Yesenia Duran Recipient of a $2500 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

“As a freshman in high school, I was clearly on the wrong path. I was naïve to the new world that surrounded me, but thankfully, Girls Inc. motivated me to believe that I was capable of so much more.”

Yesenia Duran joined Girls Inc. in 2007, she participated in the ECHO Leadership program, during her freshman year. Yesenia credits her personal growth to her participation in ECHO and having the opportunity to return as a Youth Leader. After also getting involved in her community through Building Healthy Communities, a project under the California Endowment with the purpose of improving the East Salinas by addressing violence in the community, she now sees issues at a broader level. She is now a more independent, organized, responsible, and mature teen.

Yesenia is currently a sophomore attending CSU Bakersfield.


2009 Scholars

Celene Alva Recipient of a $2500 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

“I used to be a shy girl, but due to the Girls Inc. programs, I’ve grown into an outgoing, strong, smart and bold, young woman.”

Celene credits her involvement in Girls Inc. with learning to voice her opinion without being influenced by the judgments of others. Her participation in Girls Inc. of the Central Coast began with programs such as Will Power/Won’t Power ® and the Smart Choices high school preparation program. She eventually took on the role of Youth Leader, in which she organized and led activities for other teens, as well as managed aspects of the program such as budgeting, scheduling, and member recruitment. She plans to pursue a degree in communications and a career as either a journalist or photographer to bring to light issues affecting the world.


Nayeli Gallardo Recipient of a $2500 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

“When I joined Will Power/Won’t Power®, I learned the importance of taking care of my body and making smart decisions.”

After several years of participation, Nayeli joined a Girls Inc. of the Central Coast leadership program called ECHO (Education, Careers, Health, and Opportunities), where she learned about health, state policy, careers, public speaking, and higher education. Although she is still exploring several career options, Nayeli is very interested in the field of journalism to pursue her passion of informing and educating others. Nayeli shares that she would not have the self-confidence to accomplish her educational and career goals if she did not acknowledge her right to accept and appreciate her body. “I need to feel comfortable in my own body in order to enjoy doing what my mind and soul inspire me to do.”


Alexis Morales Recipient of a $2500 Lucille Miller Wright National Scholarship

“If it wasn’t for the comfort, understanding, and education that Girls Inc. has offered me, I would truly be someone else.”

Alexis joined Girls Inc. in the seventh grade as a shy and self-conscious girl. Thanks to the support of the staff and her participation in various programs, she is now outgoing, confident, and optimistic. Along with her Girls Inc. participation, she has also grown and matured through activities such as art classes and involvement at her church. Alexis hopes to pursue a field that deals with social work and plans to become a psychologist. She has always considered Girls Inc. to be her second family, saying, “I honestly have to thank my Girls Inc. facilitators for opening my eyes to the opportunities that surround me.”