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'Ladies Of Virtue' Teen Girls Tour Washington, D.C., Colleges First Time

 Jamila Trimuel, center, and trip sponsor Ebony Jones, took a group of Ladies of Virtue teens to Washington, D.C. Dec. 4-5.
Jamila Trimuel, center, and trip sponsor Ebony Jones, took a group of Ladies of Virtue teens to Washington, D.C. Dec. 4-5.
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Jamila Trimuel

CHATHAM —  After a trip that was part college tour, part cultural experience, 18-year-old Chatham resident Sabrina Hart has set her sights on attending Georgetown University.

“I wasn’t [interested in the university] at first, but when I went I felt like I had a big connection with Georgetown,” she said. “It’s very beautiful and the people were very nice and open.”

Hart traveled with five other juniors and seniors from Chicago, all participants in the nonprofit Ladies of Virtue, which works with girls ages 9-18 from underserved communities on the South and West side.

RELATED: 'Ladies of Virtue' Helps Young Black Women Dream Big

Program participants are offered mentoring and leadership activities, like the D.C. trip, which was sponsored by member Ebony Jones and included tours of Howard University and Georgetown University last Sunday and Monday.

Zarria Bailey, left, and Sabrina Hart at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. [Provided/Jamila Trimuel]

During their trip they visited many of the capital's tourist attractions, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. But it was the National Museum of African American History and Culture that had the biggest impact, said organization founder Jamila Trimuel.

“One of the many things we want them to realize is that their ancestors are intellectuals and warriors,” she said, adding that many of the girls hear and see more negative messages of African Americans than positive.

“As a leader, you must not only look at the surface, but dig deep, and that requires you to look at history and systemic racism that’s going on,” Trimuel said.

Hart said the museum was a great experience and she appreciated the exhibit on Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy from Chicago who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly flirting with a white woman.

“I believe his murder created even more awareness about racism across the country,” Hart said.

The museum’s exhibits on slavery and racial discrimination made her want to cry, she said, but it was important to see it all.

“We have to fight for things we want; nothing comes free,” Hart said.

Being a part of Ladies of Virtue for the last four years has been a great experience, she said. Her mentor encourages and inspires her.

Englewood resident Zarria Bailey, 17, said she also enjoyed the trip. It was her first time in D.C.  

The most inspiring part was the museum, she agreed.

“It made me think about how great I am as an African-American young lady,” she said.

Before the trip, she said she hadn’t considered applying to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. A junior, she said she is now interested in attending Howard, and she’s not afraid of living out of state.

“I want to get used to the experience of being on my own and not having to depend on people,” she said.

Bailey would be the first in her family to attend college.

During the trip, the young women were able to tour the two campuses and visit classrooms. They also explored D.C.'s many neighborhoods.

Bailey wants to study mechanical engineering in college. Her mentor is an electrical engineer.

“My mentor has a good impact on me because she inspires me so much,” she said.

Trimuel said the college tour was a necessary component of the trip.

“We want them to see themselves as a college student on the campus of these prominent universities,” she said, adding that many girls enter her program believing they shouldn’t bother applying if they can’t afford it.

The hope is that all of their participants will be able to come on future trips, she said.The organization is always seeking donations or sponsors. Visit www.lovirtue.org to learn more and follow Ladies of Virtue on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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