Local group helps at-risk youth, increases honor roll and graduation rates
COLUMBIA - A local group has set out to ensure at-risk teens in its program have a happy holiday season. A Woman Inspired is a mentorship organization.
The group is currently collecting hats, scarves, coats and gloves in a winter clothes drive to give to the girls and also gifts and monetary donations to present to the girls for Christmas.
Yuriel Merriweather, president of A Woman Inspired said, her favorite part of mentoring is when they do Gifts for Girls.
“When we take the gifts to the girls, we make sure that when we put the bags together that they’re individually a representation of how we get to know the girls over time. And for them to open up the bag and to see that we really thought about them and we put this together with them in mind that’s my favorite part to see, it makes their holiday season something special,” Merriweather said.
Merriweather said they have a larger presence in the girls' life than just this one fundraiser.
“We typically talk to the young ladies once a week and we are aiming towards helping them develop in their confidence, their self awareness, as well as personal development,” Merriweather said.
Iajahneek Hickem, a mentee in the program, said the meetings are her favorite part of the week. “I look forward to this, like even during the weekend—I’m like it’s getting ready to be Monday,” Hickem said.
Merriweather said they purposely chose to mentor girls at Douglass High School because “These specific students typically face more challenges in life than the average student and we just want to, as an organization, uplift these students and help them get the best opportunity in life.”
These challenges can range from undesirable home situations, issues with family and friends, financial needs, and some of the mentees have children.
Hickem said the mentors are like family to her.
“I don’t really have a relationship with anybody, but my auntie because she was the one that raised me. So I feel that this group is something that makes me feel like I have a relationship— something that I haven’t had, I feel like I have now,” Hickem said.
In addition to weekly mentoring, the group also gathers for outside activities like bowling, skating, six flags and sleep overs.
A Woman Inspired is accepting donations until December 8.