CLEVELAND — As a product of Cleveland, Bianca Crawford knows what it feels like to grow up without much and sometimes feeling unloved, abused and even forgotten.
“It’s my life story,” she explained. “I am a product of Cleveland. I am a product of a single-family home, a product of a teen mother.”
Crawford says she didn’t have a lot of mental, physical, emotional, social and educational support at home like many girls growing up today in Cleveland who she says need it all now more than ever. It’s why she says they’re falling through the cracks suffering from low self-esteem and other unspoken personal battles, while forced to fight to prove their place throughout life.
“We’re taught to carry the burden versus us being able to lay down the burdens of life and being able to enjoy it,” Crawford said. “You can’t ever discredit just because of what it looks like on the outside. You have to begin to see what going on on the outside of a child and I think that’s where we lack and where we drop the ball at.”
Crawford says a lot of girls are struggling because of their home environments as many single-families homes are living below poverty while also coping with the challenges of the pandemic. Some of them maybe even lacking a mother-daughter relationship.
“The mother-daughter relationship is actually the most vital relationship that you can have. If you do not have your mother speaking life into you then it lacks your self-esteem and everything else is impacted.”
Her team is now trying to fill that void by carrying out their mission started in 2012 through their original program called Pearl Academy, which was utilized inside schools throughout Cuyahoga County.
“This has always been my dream.”
Their Motivated and Empowered Center provides various programs and all the resources girls, ages 7 to 17, may need under one roof.
“Every girl may have a disadvantage, but they also have a spark. My job is to find the spark, set it on fire to push them past disadvantages,” Crawford said. “We have dance, music, art, therapy, tutoring and a college center for girls getting ready to go to college. We have an OBGYN and midwife that works with us and case management.”
Still, Crawford says our girls need support at home. She says parents speaking affirmations to their kids, giving compliments and creating a safe space without fear of consequences can make a big difference.
“I think that’s the first step because you have to learn how to just meet in the middle sometimes. I mean you are a mom you don’t want to be a friend. You are a dad, you don’t want to be a friend but there can still be a healthy balance of being able to be there for your kids,” she said.
Memberships for the Mentored and Empowered center costs $15 per week. The center is located at 3740 Euclid Avenue. If you’d like to sign up or help donate goods or volunteer, click here.