MOTT HAVEN — A mentorship program that teaches teenage girls about confidence building, self-esteem and decision-making is slated to start in the South Bronx for the first time this year.
The program, the Young Women Rock! Mentorship Program, started in Brownsville and East New York and expanded to the South Bronx after several organizations and residents in the area requested it. There are also plans to bring it to Queens as well as other cities in the next five years.
Young Women Rock! pairs girls who are 14- to 18-years old, with a mentor, 19-30, during weekly sessions at the city housing authority's St. Mary's Park Community Center, at 595 Trinity Ave.
The curriculum includes self-esteem and self-confidence building; sexual health and decision-making; broader women’s issues and future options; and community service and global citizenship.
Uraidah Hassani, 25, the program's founder, explained that a self-esteem session could include an activity where individuals tape a piece of paper with a compliment on every person's back.
“The purpose might be to create a community of support and friendship by getting to know one another and then the message of the session would be that you can always feel safe and comfortable sharing your thoughts,” she said.
Hassani started the program because the age group often has a lack of options.
“I had mentored girls for about six years and saw that there was a lack of mentorship programs as well as programs for girls that focused on personal development and leadership in low-income neighborhoods,” said Hassani, who is also the founder and executive director of The Women Worldwide Initiative, a non-profit that promotes marginalized women and girls as decision-makers.
Young Women Rock! is currently recruiting mentees and mentors. Selected mentors will be trained in June, and mentee recruitment will continue until August.
The program typically has 10 mentors and 10 mentees and is designed so that mentees return as mentors after graduating from high school.
St. Mary's community coordinator Trini Jones said that the program would help round out the offerings at the center, whose programs include Save Our Streets, which seeks to reduce gun violence, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“They basically come here for activities and if we have field trips, we go on the field trips but other than that, we don’t have an educational component for them,” Jones said.
Shamecca Long, 27, the director of mentor relations at the program's East New York site, has mentored three students to date.
“Everybody is different,” Long said. “There’s not one answer. But the key is to keep an open mind, not being judgmental. Whatever service your student needs, connect them to that service.”
Those who are interested in becoming either a mentor or mentee can sign up online here.