An organization that aims to put young women on a path to college is kicking off a new, free summer program called "Throwing and Growing," which the founder means both literally and figuratively.
"It just started with a passion to want to inspire young girls to be the best that they could be," said Myrle Mensey Symonds, founder and executive director of "Throwing and Growing."
The international throwing competitor started the nonprofit in 2008 but just found a permanent facility in March.
"It's great to be in the 27th Ward which needs some programming for girls. There's just not enough things for girls to do after school in this area or in the St. Louis City area," said Mensey Symonds.
The foundation of the program is to learn throwing sports, like shot-put, javelin, and hammer, that could pave a way for a college scholarship.
"The opportunities have changed greatly because there are so many scholarship offers available for throwers and girls really don't realize that. They think of basketball, volleyball, the typical sports, but not the throwing sports," said Mensey Symonds.
Some of the girls have been training with her for years.
"It means a lot because I have someone to teach me to throw, to be a better person, because it's not just throwing, it's throwing and growing. She teaches you how to be a better person and how to throw better," said Elise Dodel.
Another focus is gardening. As the girls learn how to grow fruits and vegetables, they also grow in maturity and responsibility.
"My daddy used to plant and I liked to help him a lot and I like planting because I think people should eat healthier," said Jamya Thomas. "I think it's good and nice and a nice opportunity for girls to learn new things."
As part of the program, they also learn how to sew, play musical instruments, go through etiquette classes, and have tutoring.
"We don't just teach them how to be good throwers. We insist that they maintain a 3.0-grade point average so the tutoring, the book club, and some of the other things we do help build self-esteem, help build confidence, are the things that help them excel both academically and athletically," said Mensey Symonds.
She hopes molding well-rounded young women will help keep them out of trouble.
"With crime and violence up so much, kids are either afraid to go outside or if they do go outside, they have nowhere to go. They don't have a safe haven. And for girls, they need a place they can go and feel safe and be around other girls and have that comfort level," said Mensey Symonds.
Mensey Symonds says her program is working. She said more than 16 girls who have participated in one or more of her programs are now in college or has finished college on a scholarship, either academic or athletic.
And she wants to see more success stories. This summer she is offering another free "Throwing and Growing" program. The 8-week program starts June 11. To find out more, visit www.throwingandgrowing.org or call 314-650-1008.