Gazette Sea Foam: Robert Smalls' program instills confidence in young women

June 13, 2011 

Thanks to Robert Smalls Middle School teacher Bob Prawel for sharing the story about a special group of young women.

It takes a village ...

By Bob Prawel

How many times have you heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child?" My wife and I have discovered that the "village" is at Robert Smalls Middle School.

On May 27, we had the honor to attend a celebration of the Ladies Club, which is the female version to the school's Gentlemen's Club. The Ladies Club was created this school year by three visionary women from the school: Lucille Nicholson, Lisa Harding and Sacorra Bilbrew. Though the program is not funded, this did not deter the three mentors from dedicating their time and effort to instill what they call the "Five-Star Pledge" in these young ladies throughout the year.

The pledge represents a lifelong commitment each girl makes with herself. The pledge is recited at the opening and closing of each weekly group session, with the participants in a circle holding hands. The circle symbolizes unity and collectivity. The clasping of hands symbolizes the bond that is formed every time a girl grabs hold of another girl's hand. The circle stores the energy of everyone in it and allows each person to be blessed and helped by others within the circle.

During the meetings, the leaders discuss different issues that guide them in their everyday life and help uplift them so they can see the potential they each possess.

Here is the Five-Star Pledge:

I am the best -- not because of what others think, but because of what I know.

I am abundantly rich in ability. There is nothing I cannot be.

I am a unique display of authentic beauty -- not because of physical appearance but because of the content of my heart and the wholesomeness of my thought.

I am mindful of my imperfections that will neither handicap nor imprison me as long as I keep a healthy perspective about what I see.

I am a sister's friend. I need her and she needs me; Five Star Girls understand the power and the strength of "we."

Sacorra Bilbrew said, "The Ladies Club is an idea the three of us had because we wanted to help at-risk girls become the ladies that their family and society can be proud of."

Girls have to be recommended by a teacher or staff to join the group.

"We look for girls who are considered at-risk and/or need encouragement with self image," Sacorra said. "We also look for a few girls who would be excellent role models to help emulate what a young lady should be."

The club started with 35 girls and completed the program with 15. Five special crowns that represent the Five-Star Pledge were presented at the ceremony to Jasmine Middleton for having the highest grade point average, Toniqua Mungin for her leadership skills, Zyaisha Jenkins for behavior, and Brianna Cook and Shanice Pusha for emulating the power and strength of "we."

Assistant Principal Garner Jones emphasized that it is like "paying it forward." By helping the youth now, they will be more productive citizens in the future.

We left the ceremony feeling very proud of what these 15 young ladies have accomplished, as well as what these three ladies at Robert Smalls Middle School did to help change the future for others.

We hope this program will continue next year and possibly spread to other schools in our county.

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