By Larry Wood Aiken Standard, S.C.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "The Super Smart Girl's Club" includes lunch-and-learn programs that introduce local girls to area entrepreneurs, business owners and experts in subjects such as personal finance.
Latina McIntyre wrote the "Super Smart Girl Book," but her grandmother inspired it and the club that grew from it -- a club that is ensuring the success of Aiken County's young women.
The book's main character, Royal, is a fierce and respectful young girl in penny loafers and a pink skirt who is very polite and has good manners -- all character traits McIntyre learned from her grandmother, Essie Lee Jones, whom she visited every summer in New Bern, North Carolina.
"She loves to help people," said McIntyre, who was born in New Bern and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, of Royal. "She loves to read and help at Sunday School. Her story is about having manners and respecting herself and how it's cool to be a good, polite person -- loving. That's the cool thing about her. Most of those principles came from my grandmother. I wrote the book and dedicated it to her."
The Super Smart Girl's Club, which McIntyre launched in 2017 after publishing the book, builds on those principles and expands them into action through community service and lunch-and-learn programs that introduce local girls to area entrepreneurs, business owners and experts in subjects such as personal finance.
"Our primary focus is inspiring and pouring positive things into the girls," McIntyre said. "We were originally designed to motivate young girls to literacy. We've grown to motivate the girls through community service and educational programs and make them aware of what is in their environment. We do not meet in one meeting space. We meet throughout Aiken, and that's how they learn Aiken. We learn from the community."
The club's Flowers of Love program is just one example of service. The program started as a volunteer community service project for the club's members to make flower arrangements for the elderly when they visited local nursing homes -- something McIntyre often did with her grandmother during her summer visits to North Carolina.
"We would go into the nursing home every time we had time," McIntyre said. "We would volunteer. We would spend time with the elderly, bring them blankets."
This winter, the club's members through Flowers of Love will do the same, planning a drive to provide new blankets for nursing home residents.
"We're going to have different events where people can come in, have some hot chocolate, have some cookies and drop off a blanket," McIntyre said. "This is letting the girls know that it's important to find out what is needed in your community and to give back because you learn through giving back."
McIntyre also brings in professionals in "wonderful industries and wonderful career paths that are unique and different" to talk to the girls.
"There's nothing wrong with being a doctor, a lawyer or working in a manufacturing company, but there are so many diverse career fields you can be successful in that are necessary in society," she said. "I met a young woman. She's a trucker with an 18-wheeler. I'm bringing her in to speak to the girls.
"They need to know that they can be strong and do anything that they put their mind to. If they want to be a plumber, be a plumber. Be the best plumber they can be. I really pride myself on putting your mind to anything whether it's a male-oriented career field. You can go in there and do it. They've got women in combat."
The club's lunch-and-learn programs interest not only the girls.
"TD Bank had a financial matters class. My parents (of club members) -- they don't leave some of the classes. They learn," McIntyre said. "It really is enriching the lives of their parents."
Forty girls are in the Super Smart Girl's Club, which is for ages 2-18. The dues are $60 annually, which includes uniforms, all events and six literacy books.
"We do not turn anyone away if they cannot make the membership payment," McIntyre said. "We're working to get people to sponsor girls and invest in scholarships."
The Super Smart Girl's Club and the Aiken Newcomers' Club made a sponsor donation to two club members, Angelica Rodriguez and Kaitny Stroman who attend Aiken High, to travel to Italy with the school's Beta Club in June.
Hannah Reason received the first Super Smart Girl's Club Scholarship and attends Aiken Technical College. Jada Mosley received the club's first Dual Enrollment Scholarship and attends USC Aiken and Aiken High.
The Super Smart Girl's Club recently received a $2,000 grant from the local Walmart.
A retired U.S. Air Force veteran, McIntyre went to school in New York, where she spent a few years in the performing arts -- dance and ballet -- and did some modeling. Right out of high school, she joined the military and made it her career.
She spent 10 years on active duty and had 17 years of combined service between the military and civil service, working for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs. She also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in management and a master's in public administration.
McIntyre met her husband, Elston, at her first duty station. He was an Army recruiter, and McIntyre was thinking about switching branches for a better chance to get commissioned.
But Elston had more than recruiting on his mind.
"My paperwork wasn't moving anywhere because he had a crush on me," McIntyre said. "He never put my paperwork in because he said I am going to marry this woman."
They didn't marry -- or even date -- then. But a few years ago, they reconnected on Facebook and got married at the "little red chapel" at Rose Hill Estate in Aiken. They've been together five years and will celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary in February.
The red door at their Graniteville home recognizes their wedding day and is open to members of the Super Smart Girl's Club. "The red door is significant because we have a Little Free Library, but it's a big free library. We have a Super Smart Girl charter library, which is registered through the national database of the Little Free Library," McIntyre said. "We have a lounge we opened up for all of the girls in my garage."
The couple has three children, Keyauri, 35; Khalil, 20; and Jayden, 15, and two grandchildren. They also have two dogs, Talia, a Yorkie, and Sara, a Yorkipoo.
McIntyre is on the advisory board of Area Churches Together Serving Graniteville and the Aiken Newcomers' Club Community Service Committee.
And she's getting ready to publish her new book, "Shayla Sweet and Her Magic Pen."
"'Shayla Sweet' is a book about love," McIntyre said. "What she's writing with the special pen is how to solve all of the issues in the world today: childhood hunger, kids who are without families waiting to be adopted, water pollution. The pen gives her the strength to solve all the world issues. But, overall, she solves them through love."
McIntyre also piloted a program she developed called UNIQUE with the South Carolina Youth Challenge program in Eastover.
The program "is designed to help youth acquire the basic skills and education necessary to succeed in life," according to its website.
"I teach it to troubled youth," she said. "It's a positive curriculum to let girls know that even though you may be on another side of the fence and you've had bumps in the road or if you've gotten in trouble or you've already been in juvenile justice, you still can get back on the right path. You're not that different; you're just unique in who you are."