Empowerment Organization Lays Foundation to Promote Positivity in Community

Saturday, 05 January 2013 21:47 Written by  Iya Bakare

At a time when it’s considered “good to be bad,” Tracey Hawkins-Sydnor decided to go against the grain when she chose to write her book, 365 Girl: Daily Affirmations, which she describes as a “good girl manual” that speaks to young girls in the 10-18 year old age group. Disturbed and disappointed by the lack of respect with self-image and self-esteem issues with youth in the community, the concerned Chicago native joined forces with her childhood friend Michele Taylor, the Chicago marketing executive, to create a movement that will change history and promote positive images of women.

And the 365 Girl Foundation was born.

“I’m bringing the ‘good girl’ back one girl at a time,” Tracey comments. “When we were growing up, we wanted to be good girls. How we’re [black women] portrayed is not cool because it’s not popular to want to be good. When I look at my daughter, I feel things have to be different by the time she grows up. Mediocrity is driving me crazy and we’re meant to be so much more.”

“Tracey’s book was a cornerstone and created a foundation in more ways than one,” Michele adds. “We took for granted what he had and experienced as children. Tracey and I grew up with positive role models. Many girls today don’t have a lot of role models. They don’t know college is the next step. 365 provides an outlet and programs that show them how to be a young lady and how to think outside of the box.”

The CEO of the organization admits she wants to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. In the age of “reality TV,” African-American women are portrayed as bullies who can’t get along or congratulate each other, but Tracey says she wants to show girls in the community that sisterhood exists, and the 365 Girl Foundation is an example of that. The founder says Michele’s mother was a positive influence in her life and was instrumental in her development. Tracey says she’s worked with young people for the last eight years since she left the military. As a college and career specialist for 36 schools in south Chicago, Michele continues to work with youth in the community as well.

With a focus on education (specifically an exploration of the under populated areas of math and science), awareness, health and community, girls of the foundation receive a well-rounded experience through after-school programs and the quarterly pajama party conferences that feature various workshops on these topics. Tracey says the organization will add an entrepreneurial edge to it in 2013. This element will teach the young girls all the essentials of how to own and operate a business, including fundraising and savings plans. Although the Chicago native lives on the West Coast, Tracey recognizes the importance of giving back to where she was reared, but spreads her love to girls in L.A. as well. The organization plans to reach out to Washington D.C. and another city in the upcoming year.

Tracey says partnerships with other individuals and organizations, such as Joshua and Kenya Mercer of Swish Dreams, add a positive element to 365 Girl Foundation. With a focus on careers in math and science, the organization connects women in the field with young girls to create mentorship opportunities. Michele says the organization is also a great opportunity for education majors in college who want to volunteer.

With events like the organization’s recent Dress Drive, which afforded girls of the foundation the opportunity to experience a boutique-style setup to select donated clothing, 365 Girl Foundation models how to work with the community to prepare young ladies for the future. The organization maintains an active and an interactive presence on social media. Their blog talk radio show, which started in July 2011, reaches an audience of about 5,000 listeners. Michele says the radio show allows the opportunity to reach men and women and to find “365 adults.”

“We are so grateful to our supporters and it’s amazing to see our growth in that area,” Michele adds. “It’s so great to see so many people who are concerned about our young people.”

The marketing executive for the organization also gives credit to Chicago’s Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church for its continued support. Michele and Tracey agree community-based churches prove as successful places for their quarterly pajama party conferences, as they give the girls a landmark to return to, Michele adds.

For more information on the 365 Girl Foundation


*Photo Credit: 365 Girl Foundation

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare, GMO's managing editor, earned both her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in print journalism. She earned her B.A. from Delta State University with a minor in English and graduated with a M.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago. In her spare time, the Chicago native continues to freelance and ponder ways to both inform and improve her community one story at a time.

She can be contacted at Iya@glossmagazineonline.com
Follow her on Twitter: @ibakare

Website: www.iyabakare.com