No Boys Allowed
Wednesday is girl day at Youth Empowerment. The whole building shuts down and there are no boys allowed.
Youth Empowerment, an after school program for children ages 10-17 in Forest City, is giving young girls a chance to open up about issues that effect them.
This all girl time is called "Girl's Circle." Every Wednesday afternoon from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. the girls who attend the program work on homework, bond and talk about things that only girls understand.
"I went to a conference about juvenile justice and learned that the crime rate for females is on the rise. I decided we needed to help our girls and talk about issues with them," said Tracy Williams, executive director of Youth Empowerment.
The mission of Youth Empowerment is to provide support, guidance and life skills to youth and their families. Students arrive by bus, are dropped off by a parent or guardian or they may be picked up by Youth Empowerment.
Lashon Aiken, youth advocate, is leading the Girl's Circle. She is using an 8-week curriculum that includes lessons on loving yourself and improving self esteem.
"They don't feel like they have to impress the guys so they get real. This is about self esteem, taking the time to get to know yourself and loving and respecting yourself," Aiken said. "They are able to share here. This is a safe place. What is said here stays here and they are able to open up and form relationships."
"You can say what you need to say during Girl's Circle," said Julia Owens, one of the students that attends.
Aiken says that she has about 12 girls, including high school volunteers, that attend the group.
"I like helping because some of the younger girls don't have older sisters to help them along the way," said Morya Camp, one of the volunteers.
Along with talking about issues, the girls also do different activities together including baking and exercising.
"We did a lesson on feeling good about yourself. We went to Forest City-Dunbar and walked the track," Aiken said. "The best part for me is being able to spend time with the young ladies. My children didn't have a program like this they could come to that was free. They had sports, but sometimes you need something extra."
Aiken said she encourages the girls to band together instead and support each other.
"I'm trying to be a person they can come to and plant a positive seed in them. Women can be catty. I want them to stop hating and start living and band together," Aiken said. "They have to say nice things and pick out the positive things about each other. The benefit they get from this is each other."
If you have questions or want more information, contact Williams at Youth Empowerment, 828-320-1290.