Truly Valued – Empowering Young Women To Become Future Leaders In Sarasota
Shavonne Simon, the founder of Truly Valued, is on an ambitious mission to successfully build character and confidence for school-aged girls through mentorship.
The mentors are inspiring professional women who are passionate about empowering adolescent girls at risk of underachieving or dropping out of school. Mentees are encouraged to develop ambitious academic aspirations, which are essential for their future success. The program’s initiative is building a strong sense of self-worth while simultaneously fostering sound decision-making skills and accountability.
Shavonne never looked back. By the age of twenty-four, her life was on track, well-aligned with her earlier aspiration. She earned a master’s degree and embarked on a professional career in Child Welfare. Shavonne says, “In my line of work, seeing young women devaluing themselves has made me aware of how desperately they need reminding of their value and self-worth.” A study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation demonstrated that mentoring reduced depressive symptoms and dramatically improved gains in social acceptance, academic attitudes, and grades.
Truly Valued is a non-profit program in which mentors boost confidence with a well-structured curriculum. Shavonne stresses the importance of financial literacy and invites a representative from BMO Harris Bank to teach a series of classes on this topic each year. Apart from learning about budgeting and money management, the course also lays the groundwork for algebra and trigonometry. Sela Freedom personnel are invited to teach the girls the risks of sex trafficking. Mentors also partner with the Sarasota County Health Department with the mission of empowering the girls to make healthy decisions. Mentees are offered academic support and guidance as they navigate which classes to pick, acquire conflict resolution skills, and learn how to make healthy, responsible life choices.
In addition to mentorship, Truly Valued cultivates in their mentees the importance of community service and offers ample opportunities for first-hand experiences with the profound joy of helping others. This year alone, through their backpack drive, they supplied and stocked 1900 backpacks. These initiatives reduce the financial burden and stress low-income parents often experience before sending their children back to school in the fall. This year’s global effort included shipping 100 backpacks filled with school supplies to disadvantaged children in Haiti. The girls also serve a Christmas dinner at Whitaker Park for the Homeless and food insecure population. Shavonne adds, “Service is a big part of my life, and I value ‘paying it forward’ in the community.” With the phenomenal support of Truly Valued mentors, confident young girls are on their way towards productive, successful futures. Shavonne and her mentors stress their motto, which is “make a plan and then shoot for the stars.”
“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw torches out to lead people through the dark.” ~ Whoopi Goldberg
Photos from Truly Valued FB