During my time as an educator in the school system, I noted disturbing evidence that girls in my school were facing difficult challenges and decisions in their lives. I saw it all…teen pregnancy, drug abuse, gang involvement…the works! I began working with young people as a science teacher in upstate South Carolina. I moved to the Pee Dee area over 10 years ago and worked in the school system as a secondary school administrator. In my roles as both teacher and principal, one thing was crystal clear: the problems faced by young people were universal and most of the problems were rooted in a tremendous lack of self-esteem. My heart would just break as I listened to story after story of young ladies indulging in self-destructive behaviors and in the same breath tell me about how they planned to become a college graduate or have a professional career. It was like they could see the finish line, but had no idea about the race they had to run to get to the finish line. And because they had no idea about the race, they ran all over the place…hitting hurdles and bumping into walls…getting nowhere fast.
I enjoy teaching and taught many classes and delivered keynote presentations for all ages. I was teaching a group of teenaged girls at my church. During an activity, I asked the girls to look in a mirror and raise their hands if they liked what they saw when they looked into the mirror. To my dismay, not one of the twenty-five middle and high school girls raised her hand. I then asked them to write at least five things they like about themselves and the girls struggled to come up with a list of five attributes. Finally, I asked them to write about what they would change about the person they saw in the mirror…and each of them began writing…frantically! My heart broke to see such a lack of self-love.
Zenobia and I shared this and many similar stories of youth whose self-perceptions and behaviors did not align with their stated life goals. We quickly identified the culprit of low self-esteem that was robbing the future leaders of fulfilled and productive lives. We set out to take on this culprit head on! Since that time, we have been TENACIOUS sisters who are on a mission to empower girls and women in our communities and in September 2004, I Am B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L., Inc. was born!