To advise and help others is the essence of mentoring, and the guiding force of Rasheda Williams’ life.
Williams, a 2001 Wayne State University alumnus, nurtured the desire to help others since college, and this resulted in her founding Empowered Flower Girls (EFG), a mentor-based organization. Founded in 2010, the organization is a social enterprise that promotes self-motivation, empowerment, and positive relationships among young girls and women.
The program consists of a series of workshops that focus on issues such as bullying, peer pressure, career planning and building sisterly bonds. “Chica Chat,” one of EFG’s signature workshops, is designed for girls and young women ages 11 to 18. During the class, participants have the opportunity to exercise self expression and be heard and understood by their peers. The girls also learn the art of networking by participating in ice-breaking activities and they have the opportunity to ask questions anonymously that are answered by their peers with facilitation by adult mentors.
These workshops have personal meaning for Williams as she also dealt with peer pressure and experienced intra-racial bullying in grade school.
“They would call me white girl wannabe, and an Oreo because I liked New Kids on the Block and Nirvana, but I thought I was cool,” said Williams.
Williams’ middle school teacher encouraged her to journal her experiences. Her teacher would then read and respond to her entries.
“She told me, it doesn’t matter who you are, someone will always have something to say about you and she mentioned how people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Michael Jackson were bullied and picked on, and that really helped me,” Williams said.
Williams used her childhood experiences as motivation to mentor young girls while in college. Mentoring was also therapeutic for Williams as she used it to cope with the loss of her aunt and uncle, who helped raiser her, and who both passed away when she was in college.
“I had a lot of difficulty dealing with depression, but I knew I wanted to help people and make a difference for youth,” said Williams.
“I thought, how can I use this energy to not focus on myself and my problems, but to empower and help someone else?”
She found her calling as a mentor for Alternatives for Girls, a Detroit based organization that provides services for homeless and high-risk girls and young women. She is currently mentoring a 12 year- old girl from the organization and has been mentoring her since she was nine.
The idea of starting Empowered Flower Girls sprang from parents asking Williams for advice on how to deal with their children being bullied. She also wanted to help out her mentees and nieces, who were struggling with bullying.
She started to write a self-help book, but ended up taking the lessons she used as a mentor and turned them into workshops.
Empowered Flower Girl is now in its third year of operation and has been able to help young girls and boys at various schools in metro Detroit. The organization recently received a $2,000 grant from the micro-funding organization Detroit SOUP to offer the workshop to three Detroit schools and a nonprofit organization free of charge.
EFG is also preparing to host its first community workshop for young women. The organization is partnering with the Detroit Parent Network to host the Chica Chat workshop for a number of girls ages 10-16.
The event will be held June 13 at the Detroit Parent Network headquarters.
As a youth advocate, Williams is fulfilling her mission of making a difference in young females’ lives. She is showing young people that they can tackle any situation they are faced with and be successful.
“Even though I was teased, I realized that’s what helped me become what I am today,” said Williams. “That’s the message I have in the workshops that we do – that you utilize the talents and the things that people tease you about because they will someday make you a successful adult.”
To register for the Chica Chat at a Glance, please click here.
For more information about Empowered Flower Girls and their workshops, visit their website : http://empoweredflowergirl.com/
By Veronica Grandison