By: Katie Sobiech
The Diamond Girls is a club exclusively for girls ages twelve to fifteen in the inner city that focuses on abstinence, self-esteem and career education. The girls meet every Friday at Open M (Opportunity Parish Ecumenical Neighborhood Ministry) for a lesson, activity, discussion and prayer.
After visiting a pregnancy facility for young women, Dottie Achemoody, CEO of Open M, and Felicia Brunner, Education Coordinator at Open M, were inspired to do something to reach out to girls before they even found themselves in that circumstance. “There aren’t that many programs for females this age,” Brunner explained.
Aware of the temptations that surround the girls on a daily basis, Brunner and Achemoody wanted to provide a positive outlet filled with activities to keep the girls away from the harmful ways that they could be spending their time. The group provides an atmosphere where they can openly discuss relevant issues and discover what their morals and values are.
Each program begins in September and ends in June. After three years of membership a special graduation ceremony is held. The girls dress up, get their hair done, wear a tiara and are escorted to a fancy dinner by their father, brother, or uncle to celebrate.
“The ladies are gems, and we want to show them that,” Brunner said, “just like a diamond, when you chip away at the coal on the outside.”
A Day with the Diamond Girls
It was three-thirty in the afternoon, and one by one, middle and high school aged girls came in through the doors of the special room set aside for their gathering. With each passing minute it got louder and louder as they greeted one another, and topics of conversation included boys, clothes, and music.
One ambitious young woman, Shaquana Palm, sat down and opened up her notebook full of drawings, sharing her aspirations of becoming a fashion designer.
Finding their value and using their gifts and talents is highly promoted in the group. One of their lessons is titled “Utilizing Your Talents” because the leaders want to help the girls find out what they are good at and then help them research a career in that field. They even set up mock interviews for the girls.
“We want them to get comfortable with speaking in front of others,” Brunner explained.
Around 3:45 the room quieted down and one of the girls said an opening prayer. Brunner proceeded to ask them about their day and called on one or two girls – purposely choosing the quiet ones in hopes that it would help them to open up. Then the girls shared stories from their New Years parties.
After the ice breakers a discussion on the word “obey” began, as well as what it means not to “judge a book by its cover”. The girls eagerly shared their thoughts and opinions.
Find Your Own Voice
On this particular day their activity included a skit. Some of the titles, created by the girls themselves, included “Be Yourself”, “Find Your Own Voice”, and “Make the Right Choice”.
After her groups’ skit “Find Your Own Voice”, Kristen Ferguson encouraged her peers, “Instead of trying to be like everybody else you have to find your own voice and be your own person.”
The Flour Baby
The girls are involved in many activities and community service projects. One special project that they completed was called “The Flour Baby”. Each diamond lady had to take care of a bag of flour, pretending it was a baby for two weeks. The girls, who are given “diamond dollars” to spend on things such as key chains, lip gloss, lotion, and other things, needed to buy baby bottles, blankets, and pay for a babysitter instead.
“They realized that if you have a child you can’t have your money to yourself,” Brunner said, “though there was griping, it was a success – the girls really learned a lot.”
The Diamond Girls club has definitely seemed to have an impact on the girls so far.
“It’s changed my life by teaching me to do things right and react better in situations. I’m glad to be in the program,” Shanice Mitchell said.
The girls participate in one community service project a month, many of which are ideas that they came up with. “It is important to teach them to give back,” Brunner explained.
The girls have collected items for families in need, donated hats and gloves to preschoolers in the area, and they plan on visiting a senior citizen home to paint nails and style hair. In order to graduate they must volunteer 8 hours and tutor someone outside of their family for 3 hours each year.
The ministry’s vision for the future is for the girls to go out and share with other organizations what they’re doing and to encourage them to participate. “I would like for the graduates to be a spokesperson,” Brunner said.
They would like to set up various activities at different locations, focusing on different topics, such as career and money management.
A male mentoring program is also in the works. It will consist of similar topics, but they will have a sports component as well.
One of the girls’ dreams is to visit “The Wilds” where you can feed animals from inside of your vehicle. Many of them have never even been to a local amusement park, so it is just one of the many activities that they would like to plan for the future.
Q&A with the Diamond Girls:
What do you like best about the Diamond Girls program?
“Working together as a team; trying to know each other, get along with each other, and be friends.” – Jackie Ferguson
“Socializing with the girls and making new friends.” – Shaquana Palm
“How we all work together in a group as friends, family, sisters.” – Shanice Mitchell-Atkins
“Diamond Ladies is a good program and I advise anyone to sign up for it cause its worth it and a lot of fun.” – Tymesha “Mesha” Greer
“I think that the Diamond Ladies Club gives a positive message wherever we go and is helpful and active in the community.” – M.
“Working together and the friendships.” – Sierra Franklin