Imagine a space that’s founded on self-betterment. It’s filled with like-minded peers and non-judging mentors. Now picture having this same space during awkward teenage moments of uncertainty and misplacement. For more than 40 African American adolescents, Fadia Young Women’s Program is this space.
“I love Fadia because it’s a lot of positive energy and that’s kind of hard to find,” says England Knight, a 17-year-old who first joined at age 14. “I think everyone is positive because we want to be here, so we have the same mindset.”
Yvette Thompson, founder, second mom and sister to many, has dedicated her life to helping young girls prepare for adulthood. As a previous educational assistant for Akron Public Schools and child development specialist at Migrant Families, she noticed a lack of programs for young girls and was inspired to start her own. With the help of her sisters Twa’Nysha Mitchell and Cavelle Lollar, Fadia was created.
With just five girls in 2012, Fadia has outgrown Yvette’s basement and moved into their main location on East Exchange Street. This is where she also runs her daycare center.
The name “Fadia” comes from the Arabic word for protecting others. With everyone’s love, support and involvement, Fadia provides a sacred sisterhood among strangers-turned-family and lives up to its name.
“Fadia gives girls a place to be around individuals their age who are going through similar circumstances,” says Lauren Roebuck, a prevention specialist for Minority Behavioral Health Group who works with the girls. “It gives them an opportunity to open up and share those similarities while also working on themselves. That’s why I think Fadia is a great place for African American girls. They have something to do after school rather than going home where some of them probably don’t get the attention they deserve. They get that here, but also life skills they need to succeed.”
Although England enjoys the positive energy, she also enjoys what Fadia exposes her to, such as successful guest speakers, college visits and a trip to the Underground Railroad.
Her Fadia sister, 16-year-old Asiya Gordon, also loves being a part of the group.
“I wake up on Tuesdays and Thursdays like ‘Yeah! I have group today!’” Asiya says. “It’s the best part of my week.”
Seeing the girls enjoy their time is one of the most rewarding factors to Yvette.
“There’s nothing like having a program where girls are excited to come to,” Yvette says. “They don’t even want to leave. If you see them come in, they’re dancing, smiling and laughing, which is important. I’m glad I can give that to them.”
Co-Founder, Twa’Nysha Mitchell says she wishes a program like Fadia was around when she was younger. Like a lot of African American families, things like credit, financial stability and job readiness weren’t emphasized in her home, so she makes it a huge part of the skill set.
“We do a lot of seminars on self-esteem, confidence, financial literacy and FAFSA,” Twa’Nysha says. “If you think about it, we can’t teach something that we don’t know, which is prominent within the black community. I’m still learning myself and if you’re growing up in a household like that, it’s easy to take advantage of things like credit cards at 18.”
On white boards around the room, there are made-up scenarios with different paycheck amounts and budgets. In one scenario, withdrawals for Netflix, Wi-Fi and shopping are listed. In the other scenario, withdrawals for water, electric and rent are listed instead, to show the importance of money management and priorities. Job readiness, mock interviews, professional decorum, resumes and how to conduct oneself on social media are also a part of their workshops.
Fadia not only teaches life skills, but stands in place of peer pressure and destructive influences, like teen pregnancy. In the 2015 article, “Why Teen Women of Color Are More Likely to Become Pregnant,” Huffington Post reports that despite a decrease in teen pregnancy and birth rates, “black and Latina girls are more than twice as likely as white girls to become pregnant before they leave adolescence.”
Andrew Stith Sr., also a prevention specialistat Minority Behavioral Health Group, works with the girls throughout the week and believes programs like Fadia can prevent early pregnancy.
“Fadia helps break the cycle and puts them in a situation where they can meet different people who they may not have encountered before and learn positive habits,” Stith says. “It takes that idle time away from them being able to meet negative influences.”
Although Fadia tries to avoid that path, if a girl does have a baby, Fadia equips her with the proper skills that are needed to be a good mother, along with a baby shower at the center. The family aspect doesn’t disappear, which is what 17-year-old Qyra Sims loves the most.
“It’s a safe place where we all come to vent. It’s love all around,” Sims says. “There are no cliques, everyone is united and included and it’s like family. Nobody is left out.”
Although Fadia isn’t exclusive to young women of color, it’s important for them to have a space where representation is prominent, which is why Twa’Nysha continues to mentor alongside Yvette.
“I want them to see someone else do it. Someone who looks like them,” Twa’Nysha says. “When they see that, it motivates them, especially when you don’t see that at home. I didn’t see that at home, I didn’t have that in my family, so being able to make an impact on someone’s life is big to me.”
Fadia Young Women’s Program is always accepting donations and support in any way. For more information, contact Yvette Thompson at email@example.com.