Girls empowered at club

Published 9:06 pm Friday, February 10, 2017

Suffolk girls had an opportunity this week to have a little fun, ask a few questions and become empowered.

The Suffolk Unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hampton Roads celebrated Dove Day 2017 on Thursday at John F. Kennedy Middle School. The BGC Dove Self-Esteem Project is meant to help foster self-esteem in girls and help them achieve their full potential.

BGC marketing and fundraising coordinator Zakkiyya Anderson said Dove Day is part of the organization’s Smart Girls program, which helps teach girls to work through different issues and be proud of themselves.

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“We need to focus on our young people, and give them the courage to achieve more and to branch out and do different things,” Anderson said.

More than 70 girls ages 8-18 sat at attention on the gymnasium bleachers to begin the event, along with their parents. The gym was filled with music, chatter and energy before those attending turned their attention turned to the first speaker.

The pep rally began with a written speech by the 16-year-old mistress of ceremonies Niyasia Scott, a junior at King’s Fork High School. She lost her father when she was 5, but she identifies herself as a “thriving” survivor.

This year, she was named the Youth of the Year for the Suffolk club.

“It is about having a positive frame of mind, staying focused and being consistent enough to endure anything that life throws at you,” Scott said.

After activities and games such as “Marshmallow Catch” and “Name that Song,” the audience was separated into different groups for the evening. Each group was paired with a different speaker that discussed bullying, navigating social media and avoiding temptations.

The girls sat in classrooms with their speakers paying full attention and asking questions in turn. They asked about how to not be bullied and what to do to avoid low self-esteem.

“We need to always encourage them to communicate about bullying and to let an adult know,” said Professor Debra Wells, Tidewater Community College department lead and one of the speakers.

Another group was all about encouraging fitness and healthy living. The girls lined up in front of fitness instructor Tawanna Hill, excitedly moving to the music.

“It’s about just keeping it moving and having fun at their own pace,” Hill said.

The evening ended with a prayer in the cafeteria, with everyone in attendance. Everyone then enjoyed a dinner from Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread. The girls were given goodie bags to take home.

They also went home with renewed confidence and self-esteem. Program director Kurtisha Wilson said those were the most important takeaways.

“No matter what, they’re special inside and out,” Wilson said.