A 'passion' for mentoring girls at Girls Inc.

Robert Houk • Apr 22, 2018 at 3:47 PM

Girls Inc. has been an important part of Nikki Hughes’ life since childhood. Growing up in Kingsport, Hughes was enrolled in the after-school program for girls ages 5 to 16.

It left such an impression on her that she decided to major in child and and family development at East Tennessee State University. She even did her college internship at Girls Inc.

Soon after earning her degree from ETSU, Hughes got a job at Girls Inc. in Johnson City, where she has worked for the last 19 years. She has served as its program director since 2005.

“I have a passion for Girls Inc.,” Hughes said. “I have a passion to inspire girls to become successful women. When I did my internship here, I knew this is where I wanted to be.”

Hughes, who is the mother of a 14-year-old son, has seen thousands of girls walk the hallways of Girls Inc. at 227 Library Lane. She is now seeing children of the girls she mentored to adulthood come into the program.

“I’ve even hired many of the girls who have come through here,” Hughes said.

In her role as program director, Hughes is responsible for planning and overseeing the activities and day-to-day operations of Girls Inc. That includes dealing with the girls, their parents and the Girls Inc. staff and volunteers. She said her biggest challenge is “trying to do what we do on a tight budget. Every non-profit is fighting for the same dollars.”

More than 100 girls participate in the after-school program that serves Johnson City, as well as Carter and Washington counties. Hughes said a limited 150 spots are also available for the Girls Inc. Summer Camp.

Enrollment in the summer program, which will be held weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. from June 4 to July 27, is now open. Call 928-4251 to reserve a spot.

Terri Knapp, executive director of Girls Inc., said is Hughes is “very respected” by the girls, their parents and the staff she supervises.

“She is so kind and so loving, but she demands respect and discipline,” Knapp said.

She said it’s people like Hughes who have made Girls Inc. a success.

“It’s gratifying to have made an impact on the lives of the girls we serve,” Knapp said.

Over the years, Hughes has been called on to deal with some heartbreaking issues involving the girls. She likens her job at Girls Inc. to being a physician who is on call 24/7. Even so, Hughes said there is no other place she’d rather be.

“There’s no better medicine than seeing girls who had problems return as success stories,” Hughes said.

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