Point Breeze native Edwena Lanier is looking to keep the girls in her neighborhood on the right path.
For the better part of the last decade, Lanier has been the head of the nonprofit “Mrs. Lanier Presents Girl’s Talk,” which offers mentoring programs for young girls from all throughout the city. The aim, as Lanier discussed, is to keep them active while also building them up for the future, and doing so in a positive way.
“If you’re teaching them the right way, then you’re basically being a mirror for them,” Lanier said.
Lanier, who has worked as a paraprofessional at various schools throughout the city, first started the program back in 2011 as an afterschool activity after seeing the lack of attention given to young girls outside of the classroom.
“I noticed that there were very little activities for the female youth to partake in,” Lanier said. “There was basketball and all other kinds of sports for males, but the girls would kind of like sit around.”
Lanier then decided to construct a program that focused on various life skills, with an emphasis on five major components: self-esteem, self-acceptance, social media, peer pressure and hygiene. When the group meets every Monday-Thursday after school, most times over Zoom, each component gets broken down and discussed through a combination of daily affirmations and activities.
To help her better relate with the girls she works with, Lanier connects the lessons she teaches to current events and other cultural trends she notices among the group. Understanding how the girls function and what interests them is something Lanier takes to heart.
“I want them to be eager to come,” Lanier said. “So once I know the things that they actually like, I try to implement that. So that way, once they actually come into the program, it’s not like an extra class or test.”
In addition, each girl is partnered with a “buddy,” or someone from outside their social circles, whom they get to know and bond with over the course of the program.
“It’s always easy to link with a friend or someone you’re used to,” Lanier said. “But it’s about getting them out of their comfort zone and letting them know that sometimes in life, you’re not going to be in the most comfortable state but you make the best out of it.”
At the end of each year, Lanier organizes a pool and slumber party at a hotel during winter break to not only continue the lessons being taught, but also help further build camaraderie among the group.
Throughout the entirety of the program, Lanier hopes that the girls walk away feeling better about themselves as well as their futures.
“My biggest hope that they take away is just human compassion and humanity,” Lanier said. “And not just leaving it within themselves. The things that they learn and the components that they learn and the good deeds that they can pass onto the next person.”