Alternatives for Girls is truly made up of a hodgepodge of different people. Some are just small children playing with the staff and volunteers, while others, are much older women who have been working at the center for more than 20 years. I would describe the overall culture of AFG as very intentional. Everyone in the space goes out of their respective ways to both interact and assist others in the space. One of the most telling things about AFG’s culture is its demand for awareness without the inclusion of judgement. Since part of the outreach program is focused on harm reduction kits for sex workers and other at-risk groups, this attitude is crucial. This mentality truly translates into everything that AFG does. The form of dress really varies depending on if there are administrative or programming tasks for the day. When the team has meetings and the girls are not present, the dress is very — emphasize on the VERY — business casual. Many will still choose to wear black pants with a nice blouse, but jeans and a nice shirt is the maximum of what is expected from you. On programming days, usually Thursday nights for me, the dress is casual. In order to not form too strict of a hierarchy between the staff and the girls/ participants, most of us just wear jeans and a short sleeved shirt. The energy is also totally different when the girls are in the space. Everyone seems more upbeat and cooperative. Don’t get me wrong, the space always feels this way, but when the girls and other participants are present, this feeling is just intensified.
Because of my age, interests, and past experiences of working with children and youth, I think I am beginning to integrate myself into this culture very well. Most of the staff in the prevention department is under 20 with ethnicities ranging from foreign countries across the globe to suburbs right outside of Detroit. All of the Ameri-Corps members are African-American women who have recently graduated from college. They have been invaluable resources to me so far and have given me a plethora of advice about graduate school and navigating academia as a women of color. About half of the staff is also Spanish speaking or bilingual. This is very effective for both planning and reaching out to many of the girls’ parents.
Since all of the girls that we serve are from the Southwest Detroit area, having a diverse staff in age, ethnicity, race, and class, has been very helpful when organizing workshops and excercises for the girls throughout the program so far.