Empowering the Next Generation Through Mentorship
By TaSheekia Harris, Founder of Crowning Daughters for Success Entertainment Program and Author of “Dressing My Inner Beauty Journal” and “Protect Your Pearls Dating Guide”
The Junior Women of Initiative (JWOI) Mentoring Program has been graciously sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of Collier County for teenage girls at the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County. Over a school year, 11 to 15 young women, have the opportunity to work side by side with adult female mentors to share experiences and develop important life skills. This program has been impacting the lives of middle school girls for over 15 years.
The goal of the JWOI program is to pair young women from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds with successful female mentors from the Naples community. The intention is to encourage the JWOI members to develop leadership skills and strengthen both their commitment and confidence to make a difference in their own lives and families as well as their communities. The young women participate in a series of workshops that develop self-esteem, public speaking skills, manners, social etiquette, and professional behavior. By working alongside the young women, the adult mentors provide inspiring insight into their own lives and the obstacles they overcame, and the goals they have achieved. Having caring and devoted adult mentors that ask the girls questions and are genuinely interested in their ideas is very new for many of these young girls.
JWOI mentees shared that assembling with an array of community women who share a common goal of seeking to inspire personal and professional development in the next generation of girls who need it the most was a new and exciting experience for them. Mentees acquired through video curriculum, experiences from mentors, lessons, and role plays which set a fun and engaging atmosphere where mentees could learn and best of all be themselves. Topics ranged from healthy relationships, personality types, career exploration, and much more.
As a liaison and facilitator of JWOI, I believe that mentorship is paramount to the development, guidance, and positive perception of self for our middle school girls. We live in a society that has undermined the elegance of character and our girls have easy access to negative influences that could destructively impact their lives. Mentorship serves as a positive reminder that they are not alone and gives them access to positive, caring adults who are willing to meet them where they are. Research shares that mentorship is very effective. Young girls who are in mentoring programs are likely to earn better grades, less likely to skip school, more likely to participate in extracurricular activities, improved behavior, and have stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers. We have witnessed mentees enter the program not understanding the impact of their choices, relational connections, or the power and abilities they possessed. Over the past 15+ years, hundreds of girls have concluded the program with increased self-esteem, higher regard for others, and are headed for productive futures. Jo Monvil, a JWOI alumni, shared that it’s been over 10 years since participating in the program and she is still applying lessons and nuggets to become the best version of herself daily.