Hundreds of young girls flooded the Converse College campus Friday for a day of fun and fellowship, and hopefully a little inspiration.
"Every year there's another story, another girl who never leaves your heart."
Spartanburg students had the day off from school for teacher development, but about 450 girls from ages 5 to 12 spent the day learning anyway at Converse's fifth annual Girls Day. Organizers said Girls Day is designed to give Spartanburg's young women a glimpse at college life and encourage them to find their passions and drive to succeed in life.
Groups of girls spent the day rotating between activities that included art therapy, pony rides and equine education, CPR training, lacrosse, sign language and many more.
“We try to think about different activities that would stimulate them,” said Regina Schantz, an organizer and Converse volleyball coach. “We want to show them things outside of their daily life.”
The event began five years ago as an outreach activity by the athletic department designed to give disadvantaged girls a chance to visit a college campus and begin feeling like they belong and imagining what their life could be in college, said athletic director Joy Couch.
In the years since it started, Girls Day has grown in every way. It now attracts a broad range of participants and activities have become more diverse as other groups on Converse's campus become more involved. No matter who the child is or what their background, Couch said she hopes the participants will find someone at Girls Day who they can identify with, who they can look at as a role model.
There is no charge for the event and no child is turned away, Schantz said. About 50 Converse students and other community volunteers and sponsors make the event possible.
Tricia Boyde brought her daughter to Girls Day for the first time this year, and also volunteered. She said she was impressed by the maturity and enthusiasm of the student leaders and the variety of programs being offered.
"It's great having my 9-year-old daughter around college students to learn that you don't just go off to college and that's it. You have to give back to your community," she said.
Planning for Girls' Day goes on all year, and the week before the event Schantz said her office is always trashed with supplies, flyers and half-completed projects.
"It's organized chaos, but at the end of the day, when you see the girls smiling and laughing, it's all worth it," she said.
Couch said she leaves every Girls Day feeling fulfilled and wondering how they will top the event next year. She said she expects it will be an annual activity at Converse for a long time.
"Every year there's another story, another girl who never leaves your heart," she said.
This story was written by Felicia Kitzmiller of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Photo credit Alex C. Hicks Jr.