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2011 class of NYCHA-FFAWN Teen Girls Initiative. (Photo by Leticia Barboza)
NYCHA-FFAWN Teen Girls Initiative Soars with Take Flight Ceremony

For 43 young girls from NYCHA developments in Manhattan and the Bronx, being a part of the NYCHA-FFAWN Teen Girls Initiative has helped them realize the importance of self-worth, independence, financial responsibility and the meaning of friendship.

For the past six months NYCHA and the Foundation For the Advancement of Women Now, Inc., conducted a series of workshops for these girls, who range in age from 12 to 15. The workshops covered a variety of topics including relationships, health, financial literacy and self-esteem. “[This program] taught me a lot,” said Gionna Clinton, 16, of the Gun Hill development in the Bronx. “I’ve learned to manage money and become more independent and how to support myself.” The girls also encouraged each other and shared personal stories in open forums.

Jazz Farley is packed and ready to go to the NYCHA-FFAWN Teen Girls Initiative Take Flight Ceremony. (Photo by Leticia Barboza)
“Some of you were very shy in the beginning but you should all be commended because those of you who spoke out gave others the confidence to speak out and be a little stronger,” said Deidra Gilliard, Assistant Deputy General Manager of NYCHA’s Community Operations and Development Department during the “Take Flight” ceremony held at Bard College in upstate New York on June 24 and 25.

Throughout the program the girls participated in several volunteer activities such as NYCHA’s annual Toy Drive and they even had an opportunity to meet astronauts and NASA leadership. To culminate the program, the girls attended a sleepover at Bard College, where they toured the park-like campus, which is surrounded by fields and forests. The occasional deer-crossing fascinated the city girls while the dorms peaked their interest in going away to college in a few years.

NYCHA-FFAWN Teen Girls proudly display their certificates and award letters from TD Bank that each will get a $50 U.S. Savings Bond, and a TD Bank Young Saver Account. (Photo by Leticia Barboza)

During the weekend celebration, the girls participated in a workshop on healthy relationships with FFAWN volunteer Danna Lennon-Thomas, and a panel discussion with special guests Wendy Wilson, news editor for Essence Magazine; Brenda Braxton, award-winning artiste and entrepreneur; Patrice Tanaka, co-chair and chief creative officer of CRT/tanaka, and Elizabeth Toledo, who oversees operations at the Dodge YMCA. All of the panelists concluded that the secret to success is to believe in yourself, have a vision of what you want to do and pursue your dreams and passions.

The girls heeded this message.  Brianna Flores, 15, of King Towers summed up her experience by saying, “This program really inspired me. I loved all the events.”  Twelve-year-old Nia Berrien of Wilson Houses in Manhattan said, “This program taught me that you can show off your confidence.”

By Zodet Negrón
June 27, 2011

NYCHA-FFAWN Teen Girls' Initiative