Friday, June 25, 2010

Reflection-We Believe!!!-Introducing the Young Women of Tomorrow

The H.E.R. Hermanas Exchanging Roots cycle at Community Academy has been simply, Priceless. We have all learned from each other and know that this space will have a lasting impact on all. These young women have realness about life that most adults do not and they brought it to the space.

The curriculum covers such topics as racism, roots, light skin/dark skin, good hair/bad hair?,women who inspire and violence. We also discuss currents events as shopping while black, music lyrics and it representation of women of color, the NY city mural and Howard Stern’s comments about the Precious actress.

I introduce to you, Ms. Justine Grace. Ms. Grace is the Counselor at Community Academy. Her presence and commitment in the school and group made it a success.

In their own words, raw and honest, are the Reflections of these amazing young women. With Pride and joy, I introduce to you a few of The Young Women of Tomorrow whose words will move you, bring you closer to the reality of our community and make you believe that the message of Self-Love lives in them and we will have the next Maya, Alice, Ana Irma and Michele’s of tomorrow.

When you see this girl

When you look in the eyes of this girl
Tell me what you see

Do you see a girl who has been hurt or a girl full of success?
Do you see a girl who gives up on life and sometimes the people around her?

Do you see a girl who has witnessed deaths?
Do you see this girl who wants to be a lawyer?
Do you see a girl with attitude and an excellent personality?

When you look at this girl and you have her look in the mirror and she
sees her reflection,
She tells you she sees a ugly girl who won’t amount to anything in life,
Then she turns around and shouts out, I am nothing but a ugly girl,

You see, she has low self esteem, no matter how much her family is by
her side.
You look at this girl and see a young African American girl who can be
someone in life.

You tell her your life story, she tells you hers
Then you realize that this girl does believe in herself after letting
everything out.

She looks back in the mirror and whispers, this girl I see is the new me,
This girl is Myshelle Bey.

Looking back at the year has brought back lots of memories for me. Seeing the change in each of you is the reason I do this work. We touched upon so many different topics this year, all discussed for a reason. The goal with every group is that you listen to each other, learn something about yourself; about your peers and that you develop into responsible and successful young women.

Wednesday’s are something I’ve been looking forward to all year. The relationships I have built with each of you are priceless. Each and every week, the goal was always that you took something away from the topics we discuss. From Coping with Stress Anger Management and Zumba to “Shopping while black,” sharing about your families and the latest topic Dating Relationships, you have all been open and honest. Thank you for your contributions to the group.

One thing I would like to acknowledge is the RESPECT you have shown each other. I know all of you have not always gotten along, but for whatever reason, none of that has come out in-group. You have also taken the most important group rule of confidentiality very seriously and I commend you for that. Another important aspect of being in this group is that you have learned how to: listen to others, respect other’s opinions, share and open up about yourself, dedicate your time, be part of a positive activity, function as part of a group which prepares you for college and adulthood and hopefully you learned something about yourself. The connections you have made in the group are extremely important because every time you shared your personal stories, someone else could probably relate and your sharing made them more comfortable. These experiences you will remember for years to come.

Community Academy is a unique school because of the make-up of students. Each of you has come from another school after a mistake you made in your original school. Others may have chosen to be here. Regardless, each of you has tried to make the best of the situation and the limited resources in this building. I know it hasn’t been easy and although you complained sometimes, you still hung in there.

Memories and lessons I’ve learned from the year: field trips, Pine Manor, our lunchtime “chats”, talking sports with my girls especially the Celtics, eating lots of pizza, sharing with each other, opening the bathroom and clearing out the bathroom, medications, crying, hallway duty, millions of cell phones and headphones, “Can you charge my phone Ms.”, I’ve seen you grow, you have tested my patience but this has helped me grow as person dedicated to helping students, but most importantly I will remember your beautiful smiles and the sound of your infectious laughter.

I thank you beautiful, strong and resilient young women for this invaluable experience. Remember, study hard and dream BIG!!! Never give up on your goals and never be afraid to ask for help.

LOVE, Ms. Grace

Sheneka”... When I think about my name and what it means, the following characteristics come to mine; strong, intelligent, independent, hardworking, determined, and successful person. These qualities will guarantee my success. Outside factors like not having much of a family and other things I’ve been through in my childhood are what make me who I am. My mother is a strong person and that part I got from her. She had a rough childhood and she has taught me to be tough and strong because she got through life doing that and it has worked out in her favor. I see myself graduating, giving birth to a healthy child, and then attending college.
The things I value are my unborn daughter, life, and helping people that are in need. I value my daughter because she will be a big part of my life and she’ll be my motivation. I value my life because there aren’t many people who have an opportunity to be in my shoes or even have the chance to go to college. My child will depend on my guidance. I value giving others help because this quality will be beneficial for my social work career.
In six years I will be living somewhere in Massachusetts with a husband and children. I will have a master’s degree in psychology and early childhood education. I will have a job in that field and will make enough money to live comfortably. Right now my first goal is graduating from high school.
I know that I will live a life that I am satisfied with due to my eagerness to succeed. Dedication is another good quality I have and I think people should have that too. When I set a specific goal for myself and I know it’s something I’m highly interested in, then I will dedicate myself to it and finish until the end. Social work is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a younger child.

Sheneka- Community Academy 2010 Valedictorian

My first thought about group was all these girls from different places coming together as one is not going to be good. I told myself to go with open ears and try to understand everyone’s point of view.

I was very surprised seeing all the girls getting along so well and talking about their personal problems with others. I was shocked but happy because now a days girl’s do not get along.

To me, group is a place for me to get away and just be myself no matter what. I trust and look forward to these girls. They are always here to listen and give good advice to anything.

Ms. Grace and Ms. Yvette are my mentors. You are both classy and well respected women and I look up to the both of you for everything you have done for us. You time out of your days to come and spend time with us teens, to hear what we have to say. That means a lot to me because a lot of adults don’t give us the time to express or explain ourselves.

To the public we are troubled kids but you both see us as young women that need to be heard. I looked forward to group because I felt understood.

I wasn’t just a young lady that made bad choices but I was now someone being heard. I am happy to be a member of Community Academy’s girls group.

I am truly going to miss the girls and Ms. Grace and Ms. Yvette. You are a group of beautiful, powerful and inspiring women who have helped me learn to respect myself and others more. I also accept nothing but the best and know that I will receive that I give out.

Thank you ladies so much. I will miss you all.


Started as an invitation,

Fully unaware of what I was getting into.
But as I met up with the girls, I realized that I was becoming part of a girls group.

A group that does not discriminate against race, religion, or appearance,

A place where your secrets and opinions are safe and will not be judged,

An experience that not many girls have the opportunity to witness,

Coming together, having fun and receiving knowledge on multiple topics that we all could relate to.

With the guidance of two beautiful successful women,

Kind hearted enough to be concerned about our inner feelings.

Because of this, I will continue to be part of the group even as, a high school graduate.

I honestly enjoyed myself and can validate that if you take a chance, you won’t regret it!!


An experience from the group that I will remember and consider my favorite was going to the Wang Theater to see the Alvin Alley Dancers.

We had a good time at Margianos. This happens to be one of my favorite experiences because of how entertaining the show was. It was my first time seeing a show of this nature. Then we took pictures to remember this special night.

After this experience, I went to group a week later and enjoyed that we spoke about our problems and the conversation about shopping while black.

I remember Ms. Grace telling me almost every day, come to group, you will like it.

That one day made a difference, I had fun.


My time in group was fun and interesting. I mean in a lot of ways, I never knew I had thing in common with Rayana. I know I started this program late but still to me it feels like I can connect with some of the girls in the group, no matter how many of them go or not.

When we went to go see the Alvin Ailey performance, my first thought was, uh oh, for the simple fact that we all know who we like and we don’t like.

The overall day was good. As we all sat at the dinner table, no one had any animosity or anger towards each other. We just all sat around and had conversations, laughed, joked around and made agreements. This was a plus.

The field trip was my first time hearing about Alvin Ailey. When I saw them dance, my thought was Wow. I mean their dancing was incredible and fun. So the trip was a good way to enjoy yourself with a bunch of females from different places, cultures and ethnicities.

A girls group was really not my “thing” in my old school. To me it seemed a like counseling and I don’t really like counseling that much. Yet, me coming to this group made a difference.

I feel comfortable with myself, confident and I respect myself and the people around me. Being around others who have been through a lot and keep their heads high is a big inspiration to me.

The group has helped me a lot and brought me to a point where I would convince other girls to do it. So I thank you all for this experience.

Myshelle Bey

Sisters, the word sister represents a bond between females. I never really became close to females because of the drama. I’ve never changes my circle of friends because that is what I am use to.

But after coming to group, I realized that they are other females that are going through if not the same thing, almost the same thing that I go through.

We have learned to open up and share with each other which I really do not do. I also made some good friends. These girls were there for me on days when I was down and didn’t really know it. Just being able to have someone listen to me and everything I had to say made a big difference.

I just want to say thanks to the girls, Ms. Grace and Ms. Yvette for being there.


I hope that the words of these talented, beautiful, resilient young women will have you believing in a brighter future for our communities.

We are showered with a sense of pride as we share these words. We believe that they will succeed because as simple as it may be to some, it was important to them that we stopped and listened.



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