Members Of Girlie Girls Gain Self-Esteem And Build Solid Futures
By Brad Goins
Anita Barker founded the Girlie Girls Mentoring Program on June 1, 2013. The program is dedicated to girls 13-18. Its mission is to nurture girls to help them achieve their full potential and become active members of their communities by building academic and social competence. This is accomplished through education, year-round mentoring and training.
In 2012, she went on a mission to Haiti that greatly influenced the form of service to girls she would provide.
In Haiti, the girls she met lived without running water. Some didn’t have shoes. They lacked such everyday items as pencils or coloring books. “They weren’t accustomed to girly things,” says Barker.
Barker mentored the girls in self-esteem, hygiene and etiquette.
The situation “really triggered” Barker, she says. When the girls saw her arrive for the day, they inevitably surrounded her in a circle of friendship. She took this as a sign from God. “They just wanted to be shown love,” she says.
One of the techniques she developed in Haiti that she went on to use in Girlie Girls was “Girl Chat.” Girls sit in a circle and simply talk with each other about what’s been going on in their lives. The girls she mentored in Haiti had never done this before.
What Goes On
One of the basic principles of the Girlie Girl Mentoring Program is that members are always able to tell their mentor what they want to talk about.
In addition to receiving mentoring, members are tutored. They can attend weekly seminars and monthly workshops. If a workshop is on a subject that Barker doesn’t feel she’s qualified to address, she’ll find an area professional to speak on the topic.
Q&A is a popular activity. Members put questions or suggestions in a box. These are then read aloud to all the assembled members.
Barker says that the members of Girlie Girls are good students and well-behaved people. But she wants to teach them that they can be swayed to make a poor choice by a conniving friend or by social media. It only takes “one wrong” move to wind up being considered an accomplice. Members are given tours of juvenile delinquent halls in an effort to help persuade them to choose their friends and internet activities carefully.
Members can go to Girlie Girls’ Rose Red Hygiene Store any time they like. Although the operation is a called a “store,” there is no charge for members who pick up goods there. They do their “shopping” in private.
In some cases, parents don’t buy these goods for their daughters; in other cases, mother and daughter share them. Some members or their parents simply can’t afford the goods. Barker and the organization also donate hygiene items to local schools.
Anyone who would like to donate hygiene items can contact Barker at 337-302-3725 or girliegirlsmp@ gmail.com
Girlie Girls members volunteer to help out at local women’s shelters, food banks, nursing homes and charitable events.
Many activities of the organization are geared toward the pursuit of a college education and development of a career. Members go through mock interviews. And they learn how to dress for an interview. In one activity, some members are dressed properly for an interview; some are dressed improperly. The audience gets to decide who’s properly prepared and who isn’t. As you might imagine, a certain amount of hilarity ensues with this activity.
Members are also treated to college tours. In some cases, these tours pay off in a college career. Right now, Girlie Girls members are attending LSU-Eunice, UL-Lafayette, Southern and Grambling as well as institutions of higher learning in the immediate area.
The entire regimen of the program is geared toward helping members “gain confidence to accomplish their dreams,” says Barker.
What Is Learned
In one Q&A session, a member wrote on a slip of paper, “I don’t think I’m pretty enough.”
This is indicative of a common challenge facing the members of Girlie Girls. “A lot of the girls have low self-esteem,” says Barker.
This low-esteem is often compounded by depression. Some of the members may be lacking a male or female adult role model.
Some members have two parents at home. But these parents may have rules about curfews and dating. Like many adolescents, the girls may bristle at the rules and may not feel they can talk with their parents. But they can always talk over their concerns with their mentor at Girlie Girls.
Barker pushes against the sense of low self-esteem by telling members to “think big.” She advises members to “Be who God created you to be. Be yourself.”
The Girlie Girls Mentoring Program is a nonprofit enterprise. Its funds come entirely from private donations, the United Way and fundraisers. The group regularly holds popcorn and lemonade fundraisers.
L’Auberge du Lac has previously been the host of major fundraising events. For instance, the venue was the site of the recent Empowerment Fashion Show, at which all the models were members of Girlie Girls. Modeling by itself is likely to boost the self-esteem of participants. Barker tells the participants, “We are all supermodels.”
The fashion show had one overall winner, and also had one contestant who took home the Crowd Pleaser Award. This was the contestant who was able to raise the greatest amount of funds for the group.
Celebrity Lip Sync Battle: Set For January 4, 2020
The idea for the upcoming fundraiser Celebrity Lip Sync Battle got jumpstarted when a member of the Girlie Girls board suggested that Mayor Nic Hunter be asked to be the master of ceremonies. When Hunter enthusiastically agreed, Barker felt that the fundraising event would likely have a good outcome. “He’s not going to be part of anything that isn’t going to be a success,” she says. (The other master of ceremonies for the event will be Hunter’s wife, Becky.)
Once the Hunters were chosen as masters of ceremonies, the board began to suggest names of those who might lip sync on stage. Since different names will be well-known to different people, it’s probably best to present them in a simple list. The participants will be:
— Judge Sharon Wilson
— Attorney Adam Johnson
— Donnie Glyenn
— Phillip, DeWanna and Corey Tarver
— Eligha and Nomica Guillory
— Attorney Derrick Kee
— Matt Young and Angie Manning
— Attorney Kenrick Guidry
— Pastor Mary Guidry-Ringo
— Judge Gene Thibodeaux
— Attorney Brett Hawkins and
Dr. Gisele McKinney.
On stage, each person on the list will perform a song by one of his or her favorite musicians or bands. There are likely to be some surprises in the entertainment. I’m told that one of the lip syncers will be accompanied by the MSU Dancers.
This adult event will take place at the Grand Ballroom at L’Auberge on Saturday, Jan. 4, 7 pm. There will be a formal dinner and a silent auction. Proceeds will go towards the costs of establishing a permanent facility for Girlie Girls. Funds will also be directed to scholarships, college tours, seminars, workshops, supplies and a book club.
The new facility will allow Girlie Girls to enroll more members in the program and to offer an after-school program as well.
You can buy tickets at Eventbrite. Look for Lipsyncbattle2020. (Ticket sales will end on Dec. 14.) If you need more information, call 337-302-3725. For general information about the Girlie Girls Mentoring Program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘God Gave Me The Vision’
More than five years of mentoring girls hasn’t lessened Barker’s enthusiasm for seeing that girls get a boost in life. In fact, in January, Girlie Girls will be expanding and starting its new Girlie Girls-Tweens program for girls 8 to 11.
“For years I’ve been asked to start a program for the younger girls,” says Barker. “Many negative teen behaviors often stem from unacceptable or inappropriate behaviors that began at much younger ages. My goal is to help mold our very young girls into respectable young ladies as they approach their teenage years. As the cliché states, catch them while they’re young!”
The Girlie Girls-Tweens program will focus on friendship, self-esteem, bonding, weekly tutoring, goal setting and loving yourself as you are.
In addition to benefiting the youths, the program will give Barker a chance to expand into a whole new realm of what has clearly become her life’s work — mentoring girls. “Mentoring is truly my passion,” says Barker. “God gave me the vision to do it, and it’s been my mission. I love it.”