Girls who have been sexually exploited arrive at Brittany’s Place in the midst of severe trauma. They are in need of clothing, food, sleep, and safety. The healing process is difficult, and math classes might seem very irrelevant in the face of their struggles, but Rhonda McGinley has made her classroom at Brittany’s Place into one of honesty, integrity, and hope.
When you step into her classroom, you see a whole bookshelf of young adult literature, and her wall has photos of her dog and children. Rhonda teaches by providing choices and outcomes to the students in her classroom. This honest approach removes the power struggle between students and teachers, giving students the ability to control things within their world. Rhonda tells her students, "Don't be embarrassed if you don't know it, but be embarrassed if you do nothing about it." This saying empowers youth to have autonomy in the outcome they hope to see.
Rhonda and her students have adapted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but distance learning has been tough. Rhonda’s curriculum is for 6th-12th grade learners who prefer face-to-face learning, but she has been working through a virtual classroom using video meetings to continue her work with her students. She also works individually with students who may not be doing so well in class.
Rhonda feels lucky every time she gets to be in the classroom. By being honest and creating a classroom where students have a lead role in their achievements, students are presented with experiences that help them open their world. They create connections with someone they didn’t know could be a supporting role in their lives; as Rhonda says, “Sometimes you develop that relationship and you don’t realize it.”
Brittany's Place is a 24/7/365 shelter for girls who are victims of commercial sex trafficking or at risk for sexual exploitation. Girls receive services specifically designed to meet their needs, address the harm caused by the trafficking, and move them toward recovery and self-efficacy.