Over the last decade, the state of Florida has dropped from 36th place to 39th for girls’ well-being, according to the Girl Scouts “State of Girls” report presented Tuesday in Jacksonville.
The presentation was followed by a panel discussion on issues raised in the study.
Along with three other states, Florida is tied for the highest percentage of girls who don’t feel safe at school, the study shows. Though fewer girls report being bullied, cyberbullying is on the rise.
That rings true to 13-year-old Girl Scout Jordan McAlister, who said it happens to her friends.
“They would say dirty names,” she said after the presentation. “I have a phone. I have a computer, so I see everyone, and I see my school, and I see how negative every single person is, especially girls to girls.”
The study also finds 23 percent of Florida high school girls reported suicidal thoughts — up from 19 percent 10 years ago when the same study was last conducted.
And it found more Florida girls are living in poverty, up 7 percentage points.
But Florida does rank below the national average for obesity and better than the national average for behavioral issues.
However, although reading and math proficiency is improving, economic and racial divides still exist in those areas.
That’s why one of the panelists, Baptist Medical Center South President Nicole Thomas left attendees with this piece of advice: “We need to find a girl to mentor, a girl who may not have access to all of the opportunities or even exposure to know what might be available to them.”
The study also highlighted Florida’s rapidly changing demographics. It’s one of eight state with significant increases in Hispanic/Latina girls — up from 23 percent to 29 percent — and the percentage of white girls has decreased.
Girl Scouts of Gateway Council CEO Mary Ann Jacobs said she thinks that’s one of the most important pieces of information in the presentation because mentors and organizations have to understand who they’re trying to reach.
Jacobs said she’ll be presenting the report’s findings across the 16 Florida counties she oversees.
“It was important today to share the statistical information because numbers don’t lie,” she said.
And as for Jordan McAlister, she says she’ll be reaching out and spreading awareness to her middle school friends.
“I want to do something after this,” she said. “ I want to change how we think and how we act.”
The top 10 states for girls include New Hampshire, Vermont, Nebraska and Minnesota. None of the top states are in the Southeast.
Jacobs will be on WJCT’s “First Coast Connect” on Tuesday, July 25, at 9 a.m. with more about the study.