The Future of our Children really does matter
I am an advocate for encouraging positive vibes and recognizing inspiring individuals who will help shape a better image for the city of Detroit. However, that does not imply I have closed my eyes to the problems that have saturated the soul of Detroit causing it to hurt and plead for assistance for its recovery. The children are our future. That’s one cliché that will never retire. On that note, one of the main problems that need to be addressed in the inner city is what type of relief tactics can be identified to help the children of our community realize their future matters.
When the failure of our children impacts the community
Recently, as I watched the news, my heart cringed when I heard about a twelve-year-old boy caught on surveillance camera robbing a store. The unfortunate mother of the fallen gentleman turned him into the authorities instead of ignoring his path to destruction. Last week, while sitting in my parked car at the Belmont Shopping Center, I stared out the window in the opposite direction to avoid the person approaching my car. However, my uncle was handed the message and got in the car without reading the disturbing news. The content on the flyer was startling. I carefully scanned the delicate piece of paper from Crimestoppers which captured a picture of a teenaged girl who was missing. A reward was being offered for her safe return home. I shook my head. All of a sudden, I experienced flashbacks of my elders’ voices and other concerned citizens. I could hear them chanting, “there’s nothing for these kids to do. That’s why they end up in so much trouble.” My voice begged to differ. I needed a microphone to tell everybody: if you step outside your door and search for answers you can be led to many solutions.
Finding my own purpose led to the importance of mentoring
Over twenty years ago I remember telling the world how I hoped to help mentor young people. I made a promise to become a child psychologist. However, there were factors that impacted my decision not to become a mentor and child psychologist. First, I was young and my character wasn’t prepared to guide anyone to their own greatness. Secondly, I was too shy and doubtful to recognize I had the strength to empower myself and those around me. Finally, I had to experience my own trials which provided the lessons I needed to become a better individual and confident motivator to help others.
Currently, I am a case manager and I process eligibility applications for emergency services, medical, food, and child care assistance. However, I believe the scope of my title is more in depth than pushing papers and pressing buttons. I am assigned to a local school in Detroit and connect families to resources. I perform my job to the best of my ability because one day it could be me on the other end of the receiving line. Even though I try to assist as many families as I can while adhering to policy I know there is more work that needs to be done.
Successful Programs need Dedicated and Committed Individuals
Years later I finally gained the confidence I had within to become a mentor. By November 2015, I became the President of La’de (pronounced Lah-day/Ladies Always Dreaming Empowerment) Mentoring with a mission to “uplift, empower, and motivate” young ladies ages 10-17. The program was founded by Stephanee Strickland five years ago. In addition, I accepted the role of Vice President for Circle of Friends Youth Foundation (CFYF) founded by DeAnn Jordan. CFYF empowers young men and women to excel in life despite the barriers that try to deter them from being exceptional individuals. The experiences I have acquired throughout these past years have shown me you can design, implement and offer the programs but that does not equate to success. An effective plan needs dedicated volunteers, committed parents, and willing teens who not only speak of change but want to be active participants of nurturing and contributing to change.
As I reflected on my roles at these two Detroit non-profits, which were formed to provide support services and activities for youth and their families, my shoulders became heavy. I could feel the weight of overanalyzing every aspect of each program. I felt excited, defeated, overwhelmed, encouraged, and discouraged. The most important attribute I had acquired was determination. It was the only factor that lightened the load. I had to stop focusing on the parents/guardians who brought their children to the programs and the quantity of individuals who donated their time. Instead, I had to focus on the quality of the programs because these programs could prevent one child from failing and save one parent from losing that last ounce of hope for their child.
The conversation that encourages one to support mentoring in our communities
One afternoon I remember receiving a text from Stephanee of La’de. At times, she felt the same wave of frustration and being overwhelmed because people spoke about change but their actions were contradictory. We both wanted to ensure La’de offered content that would build the character of the participants and keep their attention. I asked her five key questions relating to the purpose and origination of La’de. In order to ensure a long-lasting future for the program, we first must understand the steps that were taken to get La’de started and the steps that should be taken to keep the program going.
Me: Why did you start La’de?
Stephanee: In 2010 through 2011, I was a member of the Detroit 300. It’s a community policing organization and I had never done community volunteering or attended any rallies up to that point. During that time, my eyes were open to many issues that plagued our communities throughout the city of Detroit. One issue that struck a chord was the fact that there was a serial rapist in the east Seven Mile/Gratiot area and at that time it was hush-hush because the Detroit Police Department didn’t want to alarm the residents. The rape victims were teen girls who were on the way to school early in the morning and returning home in the evening. I was levied and felt there must be more done to save our girls and heighten their awareness on the social issues they all face. In 2012 La’de was formed.
Me: Do you remember your first session?
Stephanee: Yes, it was in June 2013 at Don Bosco Hall Community Resource Center. At the first session “Get to know me as I get to know you” there were three girls in attendance. Of course, everyone was extremely nervous. What do I say or do now that I’m here and have someone’s attention? Parents began to come in to get information on the program and began enrolling their daughters. So now I’m thinking (Saved by the Bell) the girls talked amongst themselves as I spoke to women I could relate to. Fast forward. The weeks after the first session were awesome.
In December 2013, our very first high school teenager walked through the door. She was sent by God to help. Little did I know, she needed me more than I knew. https://youtu.be/sIiCNKW2THM
By 2014, when capacity was at its highest from the following year, the organization gained three beautiful mentors.
Me: What are your victories and obstacles as you approach your fifth anniversary?
Stephanee: My victories are having a phenomenal board and mentors. The organization brand, workshops and events have come to life from out-of-the-box thinking all with relevant, relatable content which makes La’de a visionary for today’s girls, in real time, combating significant issues. The most depressing obstacles are parental involvement. We see it over and over – more so now with our schools closing. Where in the hell are the parents? Why are they not at the meetings or rallies fighting for their children? Especially our Mothers! Why hand your daughters to the wolves?
In five years of mentoring, on one hand, I can count how many mothers participated. These teens lack parental empowerment. Period. The same things our teens are missing are the same generational things their moms have missed. I often asked are they afraid of change themselves. Are they afraid the sky will open to life possibilities they’ve never known? Smoking a blunt, having back-to-back babies and turning up with a selfie stick cannot be all there is.
Me: Where do you see La’de in the future?
Stephanee: The future for La’de is to be a premier mentoring program that changes lives, academic culture experiences, and fights social injustices that affect teen girls. I envision speak La’de radio and TV shows, and La’de Pink Bra-a-Thon conferences to become legacies around the world!
Me: Can you give words of encouragement for those starting a mentoring program?
Stephanee: A Love for Humanity should be embedded in your core being. When you give in love, others receive that love. To those continuing, remember why you started and never believe the work you are doing is in vain.
In hopes of motivating you to move
I hope this conversation will encourage you to consider volunteering as a mentor, providing a small monetary contribution to support ongoing programs, pledging as a parent/guardian to get involved in mentoring programs, speaking to motivate participants, or encourage a young adult to get involved in a mentoring program. The adage is true – the children are our future – but leading them to the road to success starts today!
La’de Mentoring meets at Don Bosco Hall located at 19321 W. Chicago on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. You can follow La’de on Facebook and Instagram.
For additional questions, concerns, or scheduling, contact:
Other programs committed to the cause
Circle of Friends Youth Foundation
Youth Vision Runners
Brown Girls Read
Please ask friends, neighbors, or Google for resources, but most importantly get involved to create change!
-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!