Smart Girls really smarting

They're still tallying up the damage done by alleged local scammer Cyndi O'Tyson. But one of the more unfortunate casualties may end up being a not-for-profit book club for inner-city girls.

The Smart Girls Club, the brainchild of area businesswoman Pat VanHooser, is just small enough and new enough that it may not survive the surprise $4,100 in debt it has been saddled with - an electronics store bill VanHooser discovered after the arrest of O'Tyson, who had partnered with her in Smart Girls.

Making the dilemma even more distressing is that VanHooser appeared to be on to something with the one-year-old Smart Girls. After all, what could be better than finding a fun, cool way to encourage girls ages 12 to 15 to read?

Well, we'll tell you.

Not only do the girls read a book each month for the club, but it's always a book with a didactic underpinning. It is, in other words, aimed at making them smarter.

In addition, VanHooser has invited a notable speaker to address the girls each third Thursday after school at Tubman Middle School. Speakers have included Ashley Smith, the famous Atlanta hostage. Smith gave the girls a gutsy summary of how her life had gone wrong, and how she survived her captivity - and she distributed free copies of her book, Unlikely Angel.

Smith stayed late to make sure each of the girls had an autographed copy.

VanHooser, thanks to the generosity of several area businesses, also had taken the girls on outings, including a day at a spa.

Friends have told VanHooser that Smart Girls could someday become a national franchise.

All that is in danger now. A $4,100 debt may not sound like much, but to a new not-for-profit surviving on a shoestring - and having to buy next month's books - it's a mountain.

The Smart Girls were given quite a real-world lesson this month.

Let's hope it's not their last.

LEARN MORE

(For more information or to help, see www.smartgirlsclub.org, or call (706) 860-0116. Smart Girls Club, 4210 Columbia Rd. No. 11, Martinez, GA 30907)

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