Young Essence Ladies...Learning (YELL!)! is a mentoring program of Essence of a Lady, Inc, where school-age girls between 6-19 years old develop career, leadership, and social skills which:
Promote positive self esteem
Prepare them to graduate from high school
Become Productive Citizens and/or Future Entrepreneurs
"Every 26 seconds, a child drops out of school and the 12th grade is the only grade girls drop out of school more than boys" (USDOE, 2012). There are a variety of reasons why this problem exists, such as school disconnect, peer pressure, pregnancy, drugs, and marriage.
YELL! provides and opportunity for girls to be surrounded by females of all ages who will educate girls on what it means to go through the different stages of development, mentor them in small group and one-on-one settings to develop their career, leadership and social skills, and empower them believe in themselves and their worth through workshops, field trips, and special events..
Professional women (and men) embrace girls from October to May each year. They expose them to real-life experiences in the school, church, community and business world. They support these girls and help them "blossom" into professional women through positive interaction and exposure. Each year, two major events take place, an annual retreat and scholarship fundraiser with our partner(s).
In 1999, Young Essence Ladies...Learning (YELL) was conceptualized as a way for high school girls to help build their self-esteem by becoming peer mentors to middle school girls and middle girls would do the same thing for elementary girls in the 5th grade. Although the idea was great, YELL was only realized on paper and never materialized at the high school and middle school. Sholann Ajayi-Figgs was a part of the initial planning stage. She helped come up with the concept and she was recruiting her friends in high school.
August, 2003, YELL was registered with the National Mentor Partnership at mentor.org. While living in Atlanta, Georgia, the founder, JoAnn Ajayi-Scott was actively involved in another all-girl empowerment organization called Cool Girls, Inc. She was the middle school liaison, a volunteer, and Cool Sister to one of the young ladies. As mentors were referred to her, she would submit them to Cool Girls.
In February, 2005, under the direction of JoAnn Ajayi-Scott, the first chartered YELL program was founded at Gamble Rogers Middle School, in St. Johns County School District in St. Augustine, Florida. Rose Reese and several other teachers were sponsors and JoAnn Ajayi-Scott was the consultant. As the mentoring consultant, I coordinated mentee and mentors. I worked directly with Women Celebration, an organization that promoted self-empowerment of all ladies, to recruit mentors. In December, 2005, I moved back to Houston, Texas to remarry.
In February 2006, the second chartered YELL program began in Houston, Texas. Most of the girls were recruited from Alief Elsik High School. Over 10 high school girls participated in workshops, peer mentoring with another girls group called Lady L.O.V.E., and other planned fun activities until May 2006.
In January, 2008, five mentors were trained and participated in group mentorship with girls through workshops, real-life experiences through field trips and job training for the summer. YELL! mentees attended the first Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Building Careers Workshop. They had an opportunity to attend "An Evening with Diana Ross" through the Brilliant Lecture Series. With opportunities such as this, the girls truly flourished and enjoyed the opportunities afforded them.
The following 2008-2009 school year, YELL! expanded to the Hastings Ninth Grade Center(HNGC). A weekly group mentoring session was held during 6th period. As the program continued to grow, Elsik NGC joined in and there were over 100 girls participating.
Through collaboration with HNGC and the recruitment of support through Elsik High School Peer-Assisted Leadership (PAL), YELL! gained support of the peer mentoring program. Four field trips were planned to provide positive interactions in a positive environment as co-curricular to the weekly group mentoring of first-time and second or more year ninth grade secondary female students along with the PALs. Going to the CREW Building Careers program to the Houston Zoo, we had over 40 students, chaperones, and tag-alongs aboard the school-funded busses. The Mother-Daughter Day was just as successful. We had over 15 girls and their mothers, along with about 10 mentors serving and pampering them with food, fun, and entertainment. We closed the year with a Mentor-Mentee Weekend at Piney Shores Resort in Conroe, Texas. Approximately 20 girls, 10 mentors, and six tag-alongs enjoyed swimming, playing games, and eating BBQ while special recognitions were presented to mentees and mentors. Finally, for the first time, we piloted matching mentees with mentors for the summer.
From 2009 to 2014, we continued programs in Houston at Elsik High School, began programs at YES Prep Public Schools and Houston ISD East Early College and established partnerships with Big Brother Big Sister in Houston to match girls with mentors and conduct background checks for volunteers. Additionally, we began a program at Pinedale Elementary in Jacksonville, Florida., with a partnership with the Jacksonvillle Children's Commission doing mentor training and background checks.
In October 2015, we are establish a partnership with Learning Solutions to offer monthly workshops to support school-age girls throughout the Houston area. In addition, we are continuing our community-based program in Jacksonville, Florida.
From October 2016-now, we have conducted monthly workshops in our community-based program. From October 2018 to June 2019, we had over 30 girls participating in our monthly workshops, quarterly field trips and birthday celebrations and and fundraising activities! They raised enough funds to fly 13 girls and 7 adults to Houston, Texas to celebrate Essence of a Ladies' 30th Anniversary!! After 2 years of being restricted to online events due to the pandemic (COVID-19), we are kicking the 2022-2023 school year off on October 29, 2022 at the Temple Gym & Fitness in Jacksonville, Florida.
For more information on on enrolling your daughter, granddaughter, niece, or godchild, complete the form above and we will contact you.