A Garden of Hope is a national nonprofit organization that works to support girls and give them the skills, experience and confidence to get ahead in life and to become leaders.
“We want to help these girls to excel,” said LaShaunta Waller, the president and founder. “We want to give these girls the support and community that they need to achieve excellence.”
Waller, along with her husband and two children, has been working for five years to bring out the best in girls.
Each group of girls will have a different experience depending on their needs. They can be taught things like financial literacy, manners, etiquette, and to recognize inner and outer beauty. They even have self-defense if that’s what the girls want. The organization also helps them find a goal if they don’t already have one.
A Garden of Hope helps girls between eighth grade and the end of high school become the best they can be in a safe environment.
“We hope to help younger girls and give them role models,” Waller said. “The girls can even get mentors that will help them achieve short-term goals, and some stay with the girls through college.
“We get girls from all income levels,” Waller explained. “While they all come from different backgrounds, we want them all to leave at a higher level of confidence and on their path to excellence in their lives.”
Many girls who live below the poverty line don’t have the help they need to fill out their college applications, or even the courage to fill them out at all. A Garden of Hope is working toward helping all girls to know that they are worth it and have the strength to accomplish their goals.
“It’s hard to get through to some kids that they have the strength to do this,” Waller said. “These girls have low confidence in themselves, so it takes some time to help them see their strengths and turn their weaknesses into strengths as well.”
Through the efforts of A Garden of Hope, many girls have been able to do things they never thought they would be able to do.
“We have formal events that the girls attend,” Waller said. “I decorate my home and we have formal chefs and servers. Many of them tell us that before they came to us, they would have been very intimidated by a formal setting.”
A Garden of Hope also gives out a $4,000 scholarship every year and has done other great things for the girls in the program, like giving them a computer and printer to work with or helping them to open their own bank accounts.
“When I choose the scholarship’s winner, I don’t just look for the girl who is doing the best in the program,” Waller explained. “I look for girls that have had a lot of improvement and are taking what they are learning and applying it in the real world.
Twice a year, A Garden of Hope holds a black-tie event called A Cinderella Story. It’s open to the public and is meant to show off what the girls have accomplished. Each girl has a biography in the program book and a prerecorded introduction when they come out with their fathers. The scholarship is awarded here as well in front of media, mentors and family.
Hope in the organization’s title is an acronym for “Helping Other People Excel”, and that encapsulates this group perfectly.