I spend my Saturday afternoons with young ladies ages 12-14. Now before you sigh and ask if I am crazy, know that I volunteer for this. I have volunteered to do this for years for the Center for Leadership Development which is the same organization that poured into me when I was a teenager. In facilitating this program for the past 5 years, certain things have changed: the things they say, the way they dress, the dances that they do but one thing remains the same- teenage girls need something to believe in.
Growing up, I always have had a dynamic group of women to admire, from my grandmother, mom, and aunts to my amazing girlfriends. However, there was a whole different group of women who loved me just as much, and they were/are my mentors. These are women who weren’t in my family and who were not my friends. However, I was able to speak with them about sensitive topics, be open with them without judgment and gain counsel from them when I was in trouble. One mentor in particular that comes to mind is Teresa Brown. She was the drill team leader at my church, and I met Teresa when I was about 8 years old. She took me under her wing and loved me, but when I was wrong (furthermore getting bad grades in school), she reprimanded me because she knew that I could do better. As time went on, she watched me grow and when my mother didn’t know what to do with me, she called Teresa. She was patient with me, she was kind, and because she was an educator, she always had resources. I loved Teresa and when I left for college and came home for breaks she always wanted to know what I was doing. She also always wanted me to email her while away so that she could see how I was doing and make sure I was alright. She inspired me and wouldn’t let me settle for mediocre even though teenage DeAndrea probably would have settled there.
Teresa was who I needed to see, she was successful she was strong, and most importantly she was attentive. All of those qualities are what I strive to be for the girls that I mentor. I want to be the woman that I needed to see at their age. These are young women who want to be great and occasionally will make mistakes, we have to let them know that mistakes will be made, but it is the lesson that you learn from the mistake that is important. As women, and as mothers and wives we become so preoccupied with our lives that we forget that there is a whole new generation of women who need us and of course we see this in our daughters, cousins, and other family members, but what about the young ladies that you don’t always see but can directly impact?
Therefore, I implore every woman to grab a young girl by the hand and pull her up with you. As one of my mentors told me years ago, if someone helped you in life, it is your responsibility to do that for someone else.