Stacey Nash is the volunteer coordinator for the Self-Esteem and Educational Development Program (SEEDS) for the New Mexico Girls School at its Youth Diagnostic and Development Center. The school houses female juvenile offenders, up to the age 18, for the state of New Mexico. The SEEDS project is sponsored and funded by the Girl Scouts of Chaparral Council.
The Deputy Superintendent of the New Mexico Girls School determined a need for a quality program for the incarcerated girls that was value-based and would provide mentoring for the girls.
Nash took this concept and started the SEEDS program in May 1997. Her mission was to change the public's perception and stereotypes of juvenile offenders through collaborations with community organizations, teachers and volunteers. As part of the program's design, she included basic life skills, such as etiquette, physical fitness, sexual health, alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders and employment techniques.
While somewhat scared and slightly apprehensive at the thought of working with girls in prison, Nash embraced the project with optimism and enthusiasm. She worked with the girls at every session, gained their trust and had a significant impact on them. The girls expressed surprise and appreciation that "someone on the outside" really cared. Her gentle and caring manner, while at the same time expecting the best of each of them, gave the girls a positive role model to follow. About 6-8 girls participate in each 12-week course of the program.
Nash has collaborated with community agencies and businesses as presenters in the administration of her program. Although apprehensive, as Nash had been, about working with juvenile offenders, the partners embraced the project and a solid working relationship was established. Many have asked to return and most offer their services for free.
The program's innovative concept and positive behavioral change on the girls has led to recognition from both the United Way and the State of New Mexico. At first, many of the girls balked at the idea of being a Girl Scout, but after completing the program, wanted to continue both the program and girl scouting.
This past spring, Nash presented a new program where the girls learned to use a sewing machine and make baby quilts that were given to the local hospital. In the process, the girls were able to give back to the community, which has now become a requirement for participation.