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Gainesville Housing Authority kicks off new after-school girls club
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Girls paint their nails during a Building Leaders in North Georgia, or “BLING,” club meeting Thursday at the Gainesville Housing Authority. The club, which will use computers and a large table to sit with girls and check their homework, meets each Thursday through December in a room at the housing authority. - photo by Erin O. Smith

A roomful of little girls painted their nails, chased balloons and shared snacks after school.

The girls are some of the first members of Building Leaders in North Georgia, or “BLING,” a new after-school, girls-only club through the Gainesville Housing Authority.

Jim Chapman with the housing authority said the club was started for residents at both Melrose Apartments and Harrison Square. It is modeled after a similar club called Black Diamonds that was at Atlanta Street.

The kickoff for Melrose residents was Thursday evening at the housing authority, and more than 25 girls attended.

“This is a program for all girls after school,” said Lisa Chester, a housing authority intern leading the club. “It gives these girls a place to come to, keeps them from hanging out around the neighborhood, just kind of loitering and not really doing anything.”

Chester said the club, which meets each Thursday through December in a room at the housing authority, will use computers and a large table to sit with girls and check their homework. Each meeting will start with a group session, allowing girls to share anything they might like with their friends.

“We’ll also have people from the health department or other organizations in the community come in and do an hourlong something,” she said. “It might be a program related to health or something for the girls.”

Then, girls will break into groups based on their interests to do activities, including dance, hair, makeup and more.

Finally, Chester said the girls will be taken on a few field trips to places in the community, with parent permission.

“So they can see other things here besides what they’re used to,” she said.

Chester and the housing authority are working with interns from Brightstone Transitions and several volunteers. Chapman said they had a bigger turnout Thursday than they expected, but Chester said all the interns and volunteers meant they can accommodate as many girls as are interested.

One volunteer, 17-year-old Ky-lynne King, was a member of Black Diamonds at Atlanta Street and decided to help Chester with the new club.

“I like to dance, so soon as I heard they’d be dancing I said, ‘Might as well,’” she said. “I thought, I’m going to be the oldest one, so I might as well step up and help out. It’s giving me something to do and it gets me working with kids, which is the field I want to be in. I want to be a pre-K teacher, so this gives me some training with little kids.”

King helped paint the nails of several little girls at the kickoff Thursday. One, 8-year-old Aquila Borders, had her nails painted teal and pink with glitter and tiny flowers on top. Aquila said she liked BLING because it was a girls-only club.

At one point, a few little boys from the neighborhood ran in the room, at which point Chapman ushered them out, saying, “no boys allowed,” to the delight of the girls.

Chester said girls of any age can participate in the club. They will break the girls into groups by age for certain activities.

“At Atlanta Street I had more pre-teens and teens,” she said. “But here I just said, ‘I want to let all of them come.’”