EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — Self-love, self-respect, and self-worth - all important qualities for girls to learn as they grow and become young women. One local nonprofit is working to teach those values to girls in the Cleveland area.
It's called Queen IAM.
Founder and CEO Dameyonna Willis has spent the last four years mentoring young girls and equipping them with the tools to love themselves which she said is the key to a better and brighter future.
“It's fun, it's something to do. It’s just to learn how to treat yourself and how to take care of yourself,” Forever Lewis, an 11-year-old who participates in Queen IAM program, said.
“It helps you through life and stuff like that and I was like, okay, I'm gonna keep going,” Shamaya Carroll, a 13-year-old who participates in Queen IAM program, said.
The nonprofit focuses on teaching girls in four core areas: financial literacy, health and wellness, community service, and college career readiness.
“We do an entrepreneur workshop. So they really learned about checking, savings, really getting into the nitty-gritty of actual financial literacy,” Willis said. “We go on college tours so I load my car up, I get my friends, they load their cars up and we head out to the schools.”
Willis said the mentorship, support, and interaction with their peers has a positive effect.
“You truly see the blossom, and you truly start to see that their crown is starting to glow and they're starting to realize the way they walk, the way they talk, the way they carry themselves. It's all about that self love piece,” Willis said.
Cleveland Clinic pediatric psychologist Dr. Emily Mudd said a child’s self-esteem paves the path for how they engage and interact with their family and peers.
“From a very young age, girls and boys tend to have the same self-confidence and abilities and then around that kind of prepubertal age, around 8 to 14-years-old and going through puberty, girls’ self-esteem tend to take almost a 30% plummet,” Mudd said.
So it's important for girls to get support from families, teachers, and organizations to break through the societal factors leading to that decline.
“One of the most important things that you can do is build your girls’ self-confidence beyond that of her appearance. So comment on her friend skills or cooking skills or, you know, learning finance skills,” Mudd said.
Because of the pandemic, Queen IAM’s approach to promoting self-love has changed. The events are now virtual, including yoga sessions and even a cake-decorating class. And the focus is still beyond the physical.
“We hop on Zoom and just finding the opportunity to do something and do something positive that makes you feel good,” Willis said.
Willis is encouraging anyone with a daughter, granddaughter, niece, or little sister to reach out to Queen IAM so they can get involved with their virtual programs.
Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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