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PEARLS for Teen Girls gets support for Milwaukee programs from Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation grant

After being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, the PGA TOUR Champions American Family Insurance Championship returned in 2021 and raised $2.3 million for charity, despite the absence of some events, such as the celebrity foursome and Breese Stevens concert, due to ongoing pandemic concerns. The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation continues to make an impact in our communities by helping charitable organizations do their important work. As we lead up to the 2022 event, and the return of all tournament events and more, we highlight one of those organizations. 

After working with professional women in the Milwaukee community, Colleen Fitzgerald, a local entrepreneur and executive coach, saw a need for a program that would help girls develop strong professional and interpersonal skills. Many of these girls struggle with socioeconomic, educational and personal challenges with minimal support.

In 1993, Fitzgerald founded PEARLS (Personal responsibility, Empathy, Awareness, Respect, Leadership, Support) for Teen Girls as an organization that strives to help girls develop the social, emotional and practical skills needed to become future leaders. Today, they serve about 1,200 girls in the Milwaukee community through their PEARLS groups. 

PEARLS field tripThe PEARLS groups consist of a group of girls, one program coordinator and an associate coordinator or teen facilitator who acts as a positive role model. The associate coordinator is either a current PEARLS girl in her junior or senior year of high school or college student who helps co-lead meetings with a more experienced program coordinator. The program staff uses the PEARLS unique curriculum to help facilitate discussion and learning among the girls.

The PEARLS curriculum is guided by six core values: personal responsibility, empathy, awareness, respect, leadership and support. Using these values, the sessions explore topics such as self-development, self-esteem building, college and career readiness and more, in a safe environment. It’s the program coordinators job to adapt the session to what specifically the girls in the group need.

“As adults we tend to think we have all the answers, but we don’t,” said Christy Miller, director of development at PEARLS for Teen Girls. “The girls have the answers because they know what they need and what problems they want to resolve; it’s our job to help them navigate through them. Our goal is to help girls build resiliency and realize they’re capable of solving problems on their own.”

Although the organization currently serves more than 1,000 girls, they’re hoping to scale up in order to serve the thousands of girls who need assistance. “There are currently about 50,000 girls in Milwaukee alone that we could be serving,” said Miller. “With the help of the American Family Insurance Steve Stricker Foundation grant, we hope to pilot more programs and reach more girls.” (See video above for more information.)

The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation grant along with other support helps cover program costs, such as providing snacks, reflection journals and transportation to professional development outings. These programs have resulted in girls developing important skills and overcoming social and educational obstacles, resulting in more confident and capable female leaders in the future.

Learn more

Learn more about PEARLS for Teen Girls and their positive impact in the Milwaukee community by providing mentorship, self-development tools and support to teen girls by visiting their website.

Since the inaugural event in 2016 through 2021, the American Family Insurance Championship has provided proceeds of nearly $12.6 million through 560 charitable grants to the American Family Children’s Hospital and other nonprofit organizations through the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation. The 2022 event takes place June 4-12 with tournament play June 10-12 at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison.