For Christi Arrington, becoming the new executive director of Girls Place was an obvious decision due to the energetic environment and her attachment to the organization. Arrington replaced former director Janna Magette in September 2017. Arrington has worked at the non-profit for over 15 years and was involved in every aspect of the organization, even occasionally driving the bus to pick up the girls from school. Her passion for the girls fueled her through the difficult interview process as Arrington dazzled the board of directors and proved her suitability for the job of executive director.
“Christi represents the best of us,” said Amy Howard, former president of the board of directors at Girls Place. “I don’t mean only Girls Place, but Gainesville and the wider world. By living her calling with devotion and purpose, she is an example we should all dare to emulate. Christi has been the heart of Girls Place for years. Now, she’s also the leader, and we are all the better for it.”
The role of the executive director is vast, and its responsibilities include representing the organization and expanding the facilities. Above all, the executive director must be a leader to the girls and staff and cultivate relationships with the community. According to Magette and Kristin Farrell, Arrington fulfills every requirement.
“Christi knows every girl by name and she knows almost every family too. She really is the face of Girls Place,” Magette said.
As the demand for the programs continues to grow, Arrington’s long-term goal is to expand GP so more girls can join the programs. Her first objective is the completion of an additional classroom so that GP can service and make a difference in the lives of more girls. The current facility includes a gymnasium and fields for athletic activities. The existing classrooms are usually full as there are more students than space, and the need to expand is imperative.
In the summer of 2017, the waiting list had to be capped off at 50 girls, and there are already 35 girls on the waiting list for summer 2018. Building another facility with more classrooms would reduce waiting lists and allow more girls to benefit from GP’s programs.
Programs provided by GP range from educational to athletic and after-school programs. Each class is tailored to meet a specific group’s needs. In addition to athletic and educational programs, the girls are taught positivity, self-respect and respect for others.
The non-profit’s mission is to be a safe, fun space for girls to be themselves and learn to be with each other. At GP, the staff teaches the girls to care about the community, be independent and positively impact the world around them. Regardless of how a girl is involved at GP, the main goal is to provide individualized support to improve their overall well-being.
“We wanted to equip girls with resources for their future, so they can succeed in college,” Arrington said.
The organization’s programs do not just focus on physical activity; academic success and mental health are also given priority. Two of the programs offered – Achieve and BrainPower – are aimed at helping girls with a specific focus in these areas.
Each counselor that works with the girls is trained to assess and treat for depression, anxiety and behavioral health issues. The goal is for communication to remain open, so the girls feel comfortable discussing their problems with the counselors as if they are speaking to a friend rather than talking to a stranger.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health,” said Farrell, the current president of the Board of Directors of Girls Place.
Serving the girls and their families is the most important goal of Girls Place and to effectively meet the community’s needs, change must happen. With Arrington, Girls Place is in safe hands.
“It’s not impractical to expand Girls Place, but we want to make the community aware of our need,” Arrington said.
As Girls Place transitions with a new executive director, change will bring growth to the organization.
“No one could care for the girls better than her,” Farrell said.