Setting them right

Published 11:01 pm Friday, June 6, 2014

Participants in True G.E.M.S., a mentoring program for young ladies, include, in the first row, Tajhnae Parker, Calnesha Brown, Ciera Parker, Sharai Thomas and  Roylinda Haskins and, in the second row, Jasmine Stevens, Twionette Bazemore, Judge Alfreda Harris, Ashley Smith, Helivi Holland, Alveta Ewell and Candace Myrick. (Submitted photo)

Participants in True G.E.M.S., a mentoring program for young ladies, include, in the first row, Tajhnae Parker, Calnesha Brown, Ciera Parker, Sharai Thomas and Roylinda Haskins and, in the second row, Jasmine Stevens, Twionette Bazemore, Judge Alfreda Harris, Ashley Smith, Helivi Holland, Alveta Ewell and Candace Myrick. (Submitted photo)

Society places immense pressure on teenage girls, according to Suffolk’s Candace Myrick.

“Most people know that the middle-school age is when they begin to go through a lot of changes, with their minds and their bodies. Everything is happening at once,” Myrick said.

In 2010, Myrick helped start a mentoring program, True G.E.M.S. (Girls Expecting Much Success). After completing a three-week summer program, girls are paired with female mentors that remain with them as long as into their college years.

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

“We saw a need for positive female role models in our community,” Myrick said. “We noticed there was a lack of them, and saw girls going down the wrong path.”

The charity bases its program on Christian principals. It adheres to the Search Institute’s research-proven 40 Developmental Assets, along with the Bible, according to Myrick.

Released in 1990, the 40 assets “identifies a set of skills, experiences, relationships, and behaviors that enable young people to develop into successful and contributing adults,” according to the institute’s website.

The next induction of girls for mentoring is set for July 29 through Aug. 16. It takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Bethlehem Christian Church, 312 Butte St., while Saturdays involve “culture-exposure field trips,” Myrick said.

The non-denominational program isn’t directly linked to Bethlehem, Myrick said. The church provides a venue free of charge.

Myrick described two field trips currently in mind: “Outside Adventure,” with activities like horseback riding, canoeing and paddle boating; and ballroom dancing.

Various topics are discussed during the sessions at the church, each relating to different age groups. “There are guest speakers, hands-on activities and group discussion,” Myrick said.

The program is free, but girls might like to bring extra spending money on field trips, she said.

On Aug. 16, the girls graduate, becoming “True Gems.”

“From that point, they would be assigned with a mentor,” Myrick said.

For each pairing, the progress of mentoring is evaluated annually, she said.

Since starting about four years ago, 20 girls have successfully completed the program, Myrick said.

But with not enough to meet demand, the program requires more mentors.

“We have mentors, currently, from the Suffolk and Franklin areas,” Myrick said. “It’s all ladies. We have educators; we have entrepreneurs; and people from the mental health occupations. They range in all ages.”

Mentors must pass a screening and receive training. The last mentor training session before the next induction of girls is scheduled for July 12, Myrick said.

Among its program topics, True G.E.M.S. lists college and career readiness, wellness and nutrition, self-esteem, celibacy, responsibility, etiquette, leadership and financial literacy.

For middle-school girls, Myrick said, “everything is happening at once. We feel this is the most vital age to catch them – while they are going through that.”

Applications for the program are due June 30. For more information and to apply, visit www.truegems.org, or call 774-7994.