Not many may know of Parkdale’s marvelous Women Warriors, but they’re still making great strides regardless.
The Girl Power Mentoring program was created by Ms. Dana Brown in 2015 as a source to empower young women concerning their wellness and health and personal safety, and as a way to help improve communication and career opportunities.
Ms. Brown came up with the idea after attending a final meeting for a transitional group, which was to help girls transition from middle school into high school.
When it was announced that the group was only for ninth grade students, some Parkdale girls asked if there was something for the following years similar to the transition program for ninth graders.
This sparked Ms. Brown to create the Girl Power Mentoring program.
“My role at the school is to not only advocate for students, but to bring things that will help them achieve and move forward and to get rid of any obstacles that are keeping them from being the best that they can be,” said Ms. Brown. “So with the fact that these young girls wanted to continue meeting in a supportive environment, [that] led me to start Girl Power.”
Ms. Brown used her previous skill from working in women’s programs and “catered [and] tweaked it to fit the youth model” to help properly put together the Girl Power Mentoring program.
The program offers girls workshops, events, and tools to grow and better educate themselves on who they are and who they will or want to become, and most importantly how to achieve their goals, whether long or short term.
“The program is really good because it allows you to be you and it opens you to things that you never really thought you could actually achieve,” said senior Jalayia Atcherson, a member of the Girl Power Mentoring program.
Although the program has been active for three years, this year marks a first in student participants receiving scholarships through the program and shadowing professionals in their desired field. Junior Kariya Jennings was awarded the opportunity to shadow a local Physical Therapist, a career goal in which she is interested.
Unlike many other scholarships, the ones awarded to Atcherson, senior Jasmine Bangura and senior Jimia Miles were based on unconventional criteria.
“I was really excited because [it was] based on [the girl’s improvement] in an area, and not just [based on] academics and filling out papers,” said Ms. Brown., “This had to do with [them] searching [and] finding out which area, whether it be behavivor, attendence, or academic that [they] knew that [they needed] to improve on and that [they took] the challenge and entered the competition.”
The scholarships granted each girl $2,000 to help them continue their education after high school, regardless of whether they choose to attend college or a trade school.
“I didn’t even think I would win a scholarship until [Mrs. Brown] hit my phone and was like ‘Congratulations!’” said Bangura. “It was actually good, it was a good feeling. Like, my mom came up and she was crying and everybody was proud of me.”
Atcherson shared the same shock when she found out that her hard work had paid off.
“I was actually shocked,”she said. “When Ms. Brown told me, I had to process it in my head like, ‘Is she playing with me right now?’”
Although the scholarships were huge perks that came out of the program, Bangura and Atcherson both feel the program did much more than help with post-high school funds.
“It actually made me mature a lot,” said Bangura. “I’m not going to lie, I’m childish, but being by Ms. Brown’s side, being in like all her programs so far, what she’s been doing, is actually helping me mature. I should have been mature enough by the time I was 16, but it was never too late. So, it made me become a better person by the age of 18.”
Aside from helping the participants grow personally, the Girl Power program has also opened up many doors that otherwise may have remained shut.
“The program has opened me up to different resources, especially for jobs and Ms. Brown has helped me with altercations,” said Atcherson. “This program has allowed me to basically calm myself.”
Despite the success stories that have come from this year’s group of mentees, Ms. Brown says that one worry she has about the program is outsiders looking in and not understanding what the program is about and most importantly, what she is trying to achieve with the program.
While some participants do not come in with a determined, goal-driven mindset, her goal of the program is to provide an open and accepting space for young women to feel safe and not have to worry about “qualifying”, or having a “proper ladylike” image, to become part of the program.
The only qualifying factor for girls to join is effort.
“I only want girls who work on themselves,” said Ms. Brown. “So that means you may come in cussing or prone to fight, but are you working on that?”
Despite potential stigmas, Ms. Brown has high hopes for the Girl Power Mentoring program.
Her biggest goal is for the program to grow and become larger to help out more girls every year, as well as to be properly recognized and supported throughout the school.