Cool Girls Club

What if we could eradicate poverty, teenage pregnancy and each child graduated high school for at risk-Atlanta girls?

Photo of Cool Girls, Inc.
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Cool Girls empowers under resourced girls to reduce cycles of teen pregnancy, and overcome barriers of racism and sexism, through a holistic approach. Our award winning after school programs help girls to achieve academic success and graduate high school. We have been a direct service agency in the communities where our girls live for more than 20 years. Cool Girls was founded in 1989 in the East Lake Meadows housing community, which at the time was a deeply impoverished neighborhood infested with high crime and violence. Dawn Smith, Cool Girls founder, believed that girls in this area needed support because they were economically disadvantaged and plagued by fear from their surroundings. Today, we partner with eight Title 1 public schools to provide education, encouragement, and empowerment to help girls make smart choices that deter risky behaviors while giving guidance for positive transformation. Cool Girls develops bonds with our girls, and their parents, giving support as early as 7 years old through womanhood.      For the past 27 years, Cool Girls has served over 6,000 of Atlanta’s highest-risk girls. Our programs instill confidence and provide exposure to a broader world of opportunity through mentoring relationships, academic support, life and health skills education, field trips and service learning projects.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)
  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)



Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Georgia

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Georgia

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]


Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Cool Girls addresses generational poverty, failure to complete high school and teen pregnancy in underserved communities where our girls reside. The Atlanta Women's Foundation and Schapiro Group led a study researching generational poverty in Atlanta that highlighted the importance of youth receiving informal education (after school programs), as too many living in poverty do not have a "tool kit" of basic life skills to become successful adults. Research from the Metlife Foundation notes the importance of afterschool programs and its significant impact on middle school students. “The gap in time between the ringing of the last school bell and when parents arrive home from work has long been a concern of families, law enforcement and community members due to the potential dangers and risky behaviors that take place after school.”

Cool Girls is the community-based solution: helping girls in at-risk Atlanta neighborhoods overcome such obstacles and to become empowered professional women who not only change their community. We provide a ‘tool kit’ for girls by promoting positive behaviors and attitudes in multiple domains, including self-concept, high academic achievement, career orientation, financial education and healthy lifestyles. Girls Club provides the girls with adult supervision needed during those peak hours of opportunity to make bad decisions and turn that opportunity into positive interactions of mentoring and solidarity in a safe, girls-only environment where they can take part in activities that empower them with life-skills.

Cool Girls is a holistic program that meets participants’ needs through programs that promote health and wellness as well as addressing academic support and financial education. Cool Girls programs engage young women in intentional, productive and constructive ways, while recognizing and enhancing their strengths. Our programs promote positive outcomes by providing opportunities, fostering positive relationships, and giving the support needed to build on their strengths as well as prevent risky behaviors. We want to see the girls we serve from low-income communities in metro Atlanta break the cycle of poverty that derail their progress and instead have the tools needed to become healthy, confident, educated young women.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Education

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:


Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Linda came from a struggling single parent home and found empowerment through Cool Girls during her formative years. She excelled in Cool Scholars, our high school program, toured college campuses and prepared for SAT, something her mother could not afford to provide. Due to our programs and support from her Cool Sister mentor, Linda graduated 3rd in her class. Her success encouraged her mother to complete her Associate’s degree. Linda received a $5,000 scholarship from Cool Girls to attend University of Georgia and amidst family challenges during her freshman year, including her home burning down and uncle being murdered, Linda drew on additional financial and emotional support from Cool Girls and completed her first year with a 3.1 GPA.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We just completed our 2015-2016 year and are compiling data. 2014-2015 results: Cool Girls Clubs, 100% of participants have increased levels of self-awareness and self-esteem. Cool Tech 90% were exposed to technology and have a piqued interests in STEM disciplines as it relates to school & future career paths; 7% participated in a week-long overnight camp focusing increasing technology knowledge and skills. Cool Fitness 90% engaged in monthly physical fitness activities and learned about healthy lifestyles. Cool Scholars 10% learned financial planning skills, set career goals and engaged in College preparatory classes. Cool Scholars 100% of the program’s seniors graduated from high school and are pursuing higher education Cool Connections 75% attended cultural, educational and/or recreational activities. We anticipate having similar numbers of impact in the future.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $500k - $1m

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Cool Girls sustains impact through aggressive fundraising efforts, community partnerships and dedicated volunteers. We submit multiple corporate grant opportunities and seek multi-year grants through private foundations. Fundraising goals are also met through two annual fundraisers ‘Hot Pink Party’ and ‘Pink Pin Bowl’. We leverage funds through third party events such as dine-outs and shopping days. Funds are leveraged through individual giving.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

While other Atlanta non-profits address teenage pregnancy and generational poverty in segments, Cool Girls takes a comprehensive approach to serving girls in need. Once our participants begin in Girls Club, they are eligible to take part in our continuum of care from second grade through the completion of college free of charge. This is crucial as 90% of our girls come from Low to Moderate Income families and do not have funds for membership dues. We help families overcome barriers of transportation and meals as our programs take place on-site after school and we provide healthy snacks.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The most important shift for advancing children’s wellbeing is social and emotional learning programs for children. This must involve the school, family and community organizations that work to develop skills such as: responsible decision making, social awareness, self-management, self-awareness and relationship skills. A child’s wellbeing is not defined by one aspect but instead must encompass all of the above. While schools can create policies to support these objectives, the community must also partner with schools and families to extend learning into homes and neighborhoods.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 50%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 16.7%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 16.7%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 16.7%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 16.7%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 16.7%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 50%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 16.7%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 33.3%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 33.3%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 33.3%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 16.7%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 33.3%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 16.7%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 50%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 100%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 100%

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Lacy Stephens

Really exciting work! There is a very clear impact on young women, and I would imagine their families and the broader community as well. Are you collecting any outcome data as far as teen pregnancy prevention, academic success, health indicators, etc.? Do you see opportunity for this to expand or be replicated in other cities? I would love to see this work expand and reach an even larger group of young women.