The White House is honoring 10 women today as Champions of Change for providing extracurricular activities for marginalized girls, including girls of color.
The recognition comes after the White House Council on Women and Girls identified the lack of access to extracurricular programs and summer activities as one of the key obstacles faced by marginalized girls.
The honorees include:
- Shari Benites—the minority achievement coordinator and director of the Center for Leadership and Public Service at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va.
- Annie Delgado—a teacher with the Merced Union High School District in California, and the head of the Lift While You Lead Empowerment Project
- Cynthia Frisina—the executive director for BlazeSports America, in Norcross, Ga.
- Lynn Gilkey—the founder and program director of CLASS—Caring Ladies Assisting Students to Succeed—and the executive director of Rise Up for Youth in Wichita, Kan.
- Bridgette M. King—the executive director and head coach of the Lady Panthers Girls Basketball Association (LPGBA) in Duncanville, Texas
- Sharon Lin —a senior at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, and the founder and executive director of StuyHacks and BitxBit Camp
- Clemmie C. Perry—the executive director and founder for the not-for-profit organization Women of Color Golf (WOCG) and Girls on the Green Tee (GOTGT) programs in Tampa, Fla.
- Maya Nussbaum—the founder and executive director of Girls Write Now in New York City
- Angela Patton—the chief executive officer of Girls For A Change (GFAC) and founder of Camp Diva in Richmond, Va.
- Cheryl Ann Wadlington—the founder and executive director of The Evoluer House in Philadelphia, Pa.
We recently spoke to Clemmie C. Perry, pictured below, to ask about her work with Girls on the Green Teen (GOTGT), an organization she started in 2014 in Tampa, Fla. So far, it has served about 100 girls at no cost to them. The program works in partnership with schools or community-based organizations to teach the game to underserved girls, many of whom are African-American.
Below is a lightly edited version of our conversation.
What led you to start this organization?
It just kind of happened when I was initially a corporate executive for a major aerospace and defense company, and I was laid off from my job. I always wanted to play golf, and so that layoff gave me an opportunity to play. By that time, I was very late in my career and life, and once I picked up a set of clubs I realized I loved it. But I immediately saw that there were not many women that looked like myself, and there certainly were not younger women and millennials and college students and high school girls on the golf course. I was upset about it because I could not understand—coming from an athletic background as a former NFL cheerleader with the Dolphins and Tampa Bay, I loved sports—why no one had ever taken me to a golf course. So by this time my life flashed in front of me on the course and said well, half of your life is over, but you’ve got to change this for the girls that are coming behind you. That’s what led to creating the program Women of Color Golf and then our mentoring program, Girls on the Green Tee.
What do you think the girls get from the program?
It has a lot of character building and interpersonal skills that go along with golf in terms of respect for people, being courteous, having patience, and just making sure that they have the understanding of how to network and talk with others. It really has a parallel to life in terms of a lot of core principles and core values.
Why do you think it’s so important to teach girls of color the game?
I came from a sports background from basketball to swimming to cheerleading. But I realized in order to stay healthy all of your life, this is going to be the only sport that you can play from age 4 to 104. Particularly with all of the issues we’re facing with health, nutrition, obesity, it was just a natural fit.
Why do you think black girls in particular need special programs like this?
Because you need to see someone like yourself doing it. There are 24 million golfers in the U.S., and less than 1 percent are African-American females. I think that girls of color need specific programs because we typically are not exposed to the opportunities that are available to us. That’s number one, and then the second thing, it exposes them to a different kind of future and a different kind of life.
Photo: Clemmie C. Perry poses for a photo on the golf course. (Photo courtesy Clemmie C. Perry)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.