Thursday, August 28, 2014

Features
Pearls for Teen Girls
by Jennifer Tomazic


MILWAUKEE --Pearls Girls in Milwaukee are helping the community with their creativity. They're making owls that will be used in a Renaissance Theater Works production next year.

Community service is just one of the tiers the Pearls for Teen Girls focuses on. It's a program for at-risk middle and high school girls around the Milwaukee area that teaches them to build positive relationships, how to do well in school, and how to be responsible for their actions.

The program started 25 years ago, and now there are 27 groups that meet weekly during the school year. Last year, Pearls for Teen Girls served 850 girls and it has a new goal of reaching a total 10,000 girls.

"Girls need this support to dream big, to see their dreams can be realized, and to be exposed to other ways of doing wonderful things," said CEO Danae Davis.

At the meetings, the girls build trust between them and become sisters, of sorts. They do activities that relate to a different lesson each week.

"It helps girls become more respectful more responsible and become ladies," said 11-year-old Janya Fisher.

She just started with the Pearls program this summer and is already learning from some of the seasoned Pearls Girls like Kyla Armstrong.

"I think if you act like a leader, you get places and you get rewards only if you act like a leader," said 13-year-old Kyla who is in her third year with Pearls for Teen Girls. "To me, Pearls is like another family."

The Pearls Girls also set goals each year and if they reach those goals, they have the choice of how to celebrate: a movie, a spa day, or another kind of field trip.

Davis can see the impact of the program on the girls' faces.

"I see confidence, number one." Davis said. "I see ownership and being respectful, number two. I see more positive spirit and articulation."

This year, she says Pearls put more emphasis on summer programing and had everything from Work Out Wednesdays to boating available to the girls. The idea, Davis says, was to retain girls from the year before and recruit new ones.

Pearls Girls also helped make lots of owls for the Renaissance Theater Works production of The Road to Mecca that is coming out in 2013.

"I made a whole family of owls," said Janya. "They don't have to be the same because people are all different."

"'They make me feel hopeful about Milwaukee, " Davis said. "I hear those words and I think it's a true reflection on the transformation of the girls as individuals but the collectively as Pearls Girls."

The Pearls for Teen Girls program runs from September to May and parents can sign their girls up by checking out: http://pearlsforteengirls.com/