A college education once seemed out of reach for Geniquiya Meredith. She heard about the crippling costs to attend even a state-supported school. There was no one at home to help her navigate the complicated federal application for student loans.

Now a senior and the reigning Miss Albany State University, Meredith has a bright future, with plans to teach, get a master’s degree and one day become a school principal.

She wouldn’t have made it this far, she says, without attending college readiness workshops, offered by the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development through Girls, Inc. of Columbus and Phenix-Russell.=

Girls learn life skills & college prep. Fanning Institute helps with staff development and college readiness programs. Girls have traveled to UGA for visits.

“I had always been told you have to go to college, but I hadn’t actually figured out which avenues you had to take,” Meredith said. The Fanning faculty “talked a lot about financial aid. They talked about scholarships I didn’t even know existed. It showed me people saw potential in me.”

For the past eight years, the Fanning Institute has partnered with Girls, Inc. of Columbus and Phenix-Russell, a nonprofit organization that empowers girls to succeed. Fanning faculty members have worked with more than 600 girls, parents and Girls, Inc. staff since 2009, helping them better understand post-secondary education opportunities in Georgia and how to take advantage of them.


Through Girls, Inc., Meredith got the encouragement she needed to pursue a college education. Fanning faculty members helped her understand what requirements she needed to meet in high school to be college eligible. They helped her understand financial aid and identify the scholarships that would make a college education possible.

The Fanning faculty also provides leadership training to Girls, Inc. staff, and workshops to help parents learn more about higher education opportunities.

“I think you can not have enough pathways for parents to get at this kind of information and assistance,” said Leann Malone, executive director of Girls Inc., of Columbus and Phenix-Russell. “I have three kids in college and the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) still challenges me every year.”

Girls, Inc. of Columbus and Phenix-Russell, part of the national Girls, Inc. program, currently has 13 local students on college scholarships, one of the highest number of recipients in the chapter’s history.