MINNEAPOLIS - By 4 p.m. school has been dismissed for the boys shooting buckets in the alley behind the homes on Colfax Avenue North.
But the lessons are back in session, for the girls. Fifteen of them, ranging in age from pre-school to eleven, sit around a dining room table, practicing their reading, doing crafts and receiving lessons in personal safety.
By any logical explanation, the gathering shouldn't be taking place. Imagine kids showing up on their own, four days a week, for three hours of schooling - after school.
Nor can logic explain the woman at the center of the of the dining room.
"Everybody sit down," says 25-year-old Shenae Hill, in a firm, but not scolding voice. She has neither teaching experience nor children of her own, yet has a natural way with kids.
"I got high hopes for all the girls," she says. It helps explain the name Hill chose for the group: 'Can-do Girls Club.'
She also chose the motto: "We can do anything."
Hill began the girls' club in the spring over concerns the girls in her neighborhood faced too many bad influences.
"There's a bunch of gangs; there's a bunch of shootings," she says. One shooting in particular still resonates through the neighborhood. Three-year-old Terrell Mays was killed in his home, by a stray bullet that tore through a wall, the day after Christmas. The girls meet on the same street, just a couple blocks away.
Hill plans her lessons by searching topics on Google. She also sought the help of the internet in crafting the club rules, including thinking before speaking and never bullying.
What little Hill earns in her daycare job helps pay for field trips and supplies.
"She'll spend her last dime on kids," says Hill's best friend Sophia Rayson, who allows hill to use her home as a gathering place for club meetings.
Hill's brother Quincy uses money from his Taco Bell job to help his sister pay for the food she serves the girls. For some, it's an after school snack, for others their evening meal.
It's one time the neighborhood boys are allowed inside the house. "Tell them if they want to eat, c'mon on in," she yells from the kitchen. Magically, there always seems to be enough extra for the boys to be fed too.
"I love kids," she says, as if it weren't already apparent.
"She's teaching us to behave in school," says one of the girls, as those gathered around nod in agreement.
So many lessons a girl needs to know, yet not always there for Hill as she grew up in a broken home with parents who struggled with alcohol and drugs. "I didn't have the best childhood and, like I tell everybody, I wish I had someone there pushing me."
Aryanna Williams is only eleven, but knows what she wants out of life. "I want to be a doctor or a lawyer," she says.
Hill believes no girl in any neighborhood should have a limit placed on her dreams. "I see them all in college, every last one of them."
The Can-do Girls Club begins and ends each meeting with a pledge. "Today I pledge to be confident" the girls say in unison. "I will make the world a better place."
Shenae Hill cannot change the entire Northside, but this is no time to time to bet against the girls on Colfax Avenue.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)