Valdosta Daily Times

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March 11, 2013

Sister-to-Sister seminar brings together middle school girls to learn, grow

VALDOSTA — For more than 15 years, the Sister-to-Sister seminar has been bringing middle-school girls together and this year is no different.

Hosted on Saturday by the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, the seminar had the girls participating in a full-day mentor program. Throughout the day, they had honest, open conversations about self-esteem and cyber safety, and then spent the afternoon working in the sciences, introducing forensics and forensic math, among other things.

“It's all-encompassing,” said Rosetta Coyne, one of the women who helped plan the day. “It gives girls a chance to go to a college campus and talk about issues that face their age group.”

Coyne, who has been involved in Sister-to-Sister since the first seminar, sees it as a chance to encourage middle-school girls to make better decisions and to think outside of the box of middle-school peer pressure.

“Coming here, they get to see adult women who are in different career fields,” said Coyne. “We don't know what talents, what fields these girls might get into. We want to teach them to fulfill a dream they haven't dreamt yet.”

The girls come from local middle schools: Valdosta, Lowndes, and Brooks County. They also come from Delta Academy, a local program for middle-school girls, and Union Cathedral.

“It's important that girls learn self-esteem and the importance of good grades,” said Tiffany Crowell, who works with Union Cathedral to bring girls to Sister-to-Sister. “That is what is going to further their careers and allow them to be good stewards.”

Jessica Lewis with the local Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority agrees.

“We need positive things for girls to get involved in,” said Lewis. “These girls want more.”

“It's important to get girls on campus to show them they have other options,” said Bonita Werts, with Delta Academy. “One of the things we gear ourselves towards is introducing girls to the sciences and math.”

Some girls go through a Sister-to-Sister seminar and feel compelled to come back, to help with the next one. Janie Lima and Emma Bailey are two such girls.

“I learned a lot my first time through,” said Lima. “Middle school can be a difficult time, with a lot of pressures. Sister-to-Sister shows girls that they don't have to go into that.”

When Lima came through, she started shy and became more open throughout the day. Now, she and Bailey see other young girls travel the same journey.

Bailey, whose free time is currently involved in being a drummer for her school's jazz band, cites the seminars on cyber safety and online predators as important to her other sisters.

“We are all sisters,” said Lawanna Barron, keynote speaker for the seminar's lunch and Family Advocacy Outreach manager at Moody Air Force Base. “It's not going to be easy, but you can do anything you want. ... You determine your destiny. It’s up to you to do.”

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