Washington, DC is home to a large population of underprivileged and impoverished women and girls. This generation of young women is facing obstacles far greater than most can imagine. These hardships range from generational poverty, peer pressure, early pregnancy, and gang violence.
In response to this issue, members of the Council on Women & Girls and other White House staff held a briefing on the importance of mentorship in the lives of young girls. This briefing featured a dialogue between six female Administration staffers and a local DC area youth mentoring group, the Lovely Ladies of Laurel Mentoring Group (LLOL Mentoring).
LLOL Mentoring was created by Eisenhower Middle School special education teacher, Celeste Hill. In 2009, Hill wanted to build a safe space for teenage girls to thrive after a troubled student she taught committed suicide at the age of 13. LLOL has since changed the lives of over 138 girls from low-income areas and underperforming schools. This program provides after-school mentoring and tutoring to girls in addition to preparing students for college.
Mentorship affords young girls the opportunity to create a brighter future for themselves and their peers. When a child is given the chance to succeed academically and socially, they begin to thrive in a remarkable manner. As a mentor, I’ve learned that when you give a young girl the tools to shape her future through public service, she then begins to believe that she can change the world.
The LLOL Mentoring Program continues to teach youth that they too can change the world around them. Angel Tillery, an LLOL mentee and student at Laurel High School stated, “[The LLOL Mentoring Program] means a lot to me because it changed my life. I was headed on the path of destruction just like the other girls in my community. Now, I look at them and say that could have been me. I'm glad I have a mentor to guide me on the correct path and all girls need someone like that.”
As Angel began to tell us about her journey to success, White House staffers began to join the LLOL mentees in sharing their stories of personal triumph is in the face of adversity. This dialogue served as a platform for speakers to inspire youth leaders by sharing their path to achieving success in their respective fields.
In 2009, President Obama created the Council on Women & Girls. The purpose of the Council is "to ensure that each of the agencies in which they're charged takes into account the needs of women and girls in the policies they draft, the programs they create, the legislation they support" and that the true purpose of our government is "to ensure that in America, all things are still possible for all people." As leaders, we can ensure the needs of women and girls are met by supporting America’s greatest natural resource, our youth.
Avra Siegel, the Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls reflected on yesterday’s briefing: “The benefits of mentoring cannot be underestimated, both for the mentee and the mentor. The young women I met yesterday were truly inspirational and made me feel even more passionate about the work that the White House Council on Women and Girls does to help the women and girls of America. These women are the future of America.”
The success of LLOL Mentoring proves that we must begin investing in community driven programs. These initiatives hold the ability to alter the lives of girls by showing them even thought they are might be facing the impossible, it doesn’t mean they can’t do the unimaginable.
As human beings, we hold within our hand the opportunity to change the lives of others through mentorship. We all hold the capability to inspire others with our life experiences, guidance, and wisdom. It is up to us to take this opportunity to invest in our communities.
Take this time to mentor. Get involved. Become active. Be the change you wish to see in your community by joining the efforts of the White House Council on Women & Girls.
Ola Ojewumi is an Intern in the White House Office of Public Engagement & Intergovernmental Affairs.