Metro Atlanta nonprofit pushes S.T.E.A.M. to keep girls focused, out of trouble

Saturday was World Teen Mental Wellness Day and FOX 5 met the leader of a local nonprofit working with hundreds of teen girls in Atlanta to improve their mental health amidst many challenges and rising youth violence.

"After the pandemic, we noticed that there was an influx of students indicating that they had experienced depression, anxiety, withdrawal from activities and things that they are typically enjoying," said Founder and Executive Director of 3D Girls, Inc. Raioni Madison.

She said even with the pandemic over, there has never been a more important time to help teen mental health.

Founder and Executive Director of 3D Girls, Inc. Raioni Madison.

"Whether it be learning loss, whether it be violence in the schools, there are high turnover rates with teachers in the classrooms," Madison said. "We know that it affects kids' stability."

She said mental health impacts on teens can lead some to violence.

There have been many recent examples of the increasing youth violence in metro Atlanta, including the 15-year-old shot by police near Six Flags on Saturday after the GBI said a group of teens fired on police.

"We've seen an increase in youth violence. We've seen an increase in suicidal ideation, isolation, addiction to social media. Kids are losing interest in the things that help them to produce healthy, well-balanced lives," Madison said.

She said 3D Girls, Inc. works with more 280 Black and brown girls across six schools in metro Atlanta.

They provide S.T.E.A.M. resources for them, including mentors in related careers to help the girls visualize their future. 

"To engage them in job shadowing opportunities, to help them to see themselves as these high-profile career professionals," Madison said.

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(Credit: 3D Girls, Inc.)

They’ve also created a digital platform called Girls Link Up with an online curriculum and a safe digital space.

"We know that girls need safe spaces to be online, with cyberbullying, et cetera," Madison said. 

But Madison said they need to scale up this kind of work to help all the teens who need it. 

"I think there needs to be more emphasis from state and local governments to invest in organizations that are already on the ground doing the work," she said.