Shalon Maral, right, watches as Janelle Pina, left, makes a collage during a meeting of the Got Choices program at the Matt Garcia Youth Center Tuesday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)


Got Choices program guiding Fairfield girls through life

By From page A1 | July 09, 2012

FAIRFIELD — Jessinique Brown and Monique Armstrong-Land, both 14,  found a place of refuge at the Matt Garcia Youth Center.

There, Brown and Armstrong-Land are surrounded by boys, boys sports and other boy-related activities.

But every Tuesday night, the girls go to a place where they can be themselves, a place where they can discuss their issues (sometimes, they said, about “annoyingly cute” boys), get advice, make friends and, most importantly, have a place free from boys.

The program Got Choices meets for 90 minutes every Tuesday for girls from middle school through high school to hang out, talk about their lives and sometimes air their issues.

Coordinator Shalon Maral brought it to the youth center a couple months ago, though she has been running it for nearly eight years now.

Got Choices is a Girls Scouts program that helps empower young women and helps them make choices in their lives.

Maral started it in Solano and Sonoma counties for girls in juvenile hall and teen moms.

When some of the girls were released, they wanted to continue with the program, but needed a safe, comfortable environment to meet.

Maral found that at the center. After she received a Ruby Award from the Soroptimist of Central Solano County, she finally had the seed money to start the program.

Got Choices is available not only for girls transitioning from juvenile hall, but any girl with a membership through the PAL center.

Maral believes that there is serious need for groups oriented toward young women, which was part of the reason she started Got Choices.

“Boys stuff seems to overshadow girls stuff,” she said. “There’s nothing out there for middle- and high-school girls to talk about what they want to talk about.”

Brown said that Got Choices is one of the few places she can really talk about her issues.

“Not all the time can you express how you really feel out in the open,” she said.

Maral helped the girls open up to her and each other by telling them a little about her tough childhood.

“It makes them more comfortable to tell their stuff, come open with each other,” she said.

The girls talk about their “highs” and “lows” every week, which sometime spiral into serious discussion about family issues, personal issues and relationship issues. All talk, Maral said, is confidential and stays in the room.

She sometimes uses activities, such as scrapbooking or journaling, to ignite discussion among the girls.

Last week, Armstrong-Land said, they made a poster about sisterhood and what they thought the meaning of that word should be. They also worked on life skills such as resume building and writing.

Maral hopes that through discussion and activities, she can influence these girls into making good life choices.

She said that through the program they can “appreciate where we have been . . . we’ve got choices.”

Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San covers Rio Vista, features and general news for the Daily Republic. She received her bachelors of art degree from the University of Oregon.

Discussion | 6 comments

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  • What Happened To Parents? (welfare state)July 09, 2012 - 12:09 pm

    Cut their budgets. I'm sick of my tax money being spent on the illegitimate offspring of the welfare and illegal alien underclasses your state encourages and coddles. Constitutionally limited Government isn't about providing all things to all people---its supposed to be protecting our rights, not usurping and cancelling them. What ever happened to parents? Daily Republic---enough of these sappy articles endlessly promoting nanny-state bankrupt government. Another thing---I'm sick of your "moderation hold" while you ban people who dissent against this nanny state garbage while you allow your local government pals to do as they please in here---including making offensive comments about us with impunity. You can do and say what you want but your State's outcome has a lot to desire now, doesn't it?! The way you guys tell it, we should spend more money on Matt Garcia government indoctrination parenting centers, welfare moms, their mindless neer'dowell illegitimate offspring and provide anything and everything. I think not.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DJKJuly 09, 2012 - 2:51 pm

    Obviously your parents didn't do a very good job instilling respect and manners towards others in you. Hopefully, your parents aren't around to see what a bitter, little person you've become.

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  • Mr. PracticalJuly 09, 2012 - 7:55 pm

    DJK, I couldn't agree more. Not to mention that his comments have nothing to do with the Matt Garcia Youth Center since it's funded through individual, corporation and Matt Garcia Foundation support, not his tax dollars.

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  • Matt Garcia Center IS A Govt BuildingJuly 09, 2012 - 8:01 pm

    Excuse me, but that Matt Garcia building is a government building! How could it not be paid for with tax dollars!? Mr. Practical---arent you one of the Daily Repuiblic's annointed ones?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Explain Yourself DJKJuly 09, 2012 - 7:57 pm

    Just because I won't passively accomodate your position (and you won't even tell us what it is) doesn't mean I need to be parented by the government. Instead of trying to insult me, why don't you explain why you like big momma obama government and all its trappings!

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  • The SugarJarJuly 09, 2012 - 9:38 pm

    I can appreciate money spent in order to improve lives and change attitudes. However I kind of understand the complaining poster's problem with money being spent in the way one doesn't like. My pet peeve is money spent to handle people who don't know how to behave in public--police money, court money--it just seems a big shame. There should be a different way to handle people who cannot seem to conduct themselves in public. The downside is that it could be expensive and easily used to try and control so-called enemies of the state. And these misbehaving people might just be mentally ill, or poorly adapted to cultural norms.

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