The pandemic caused the leadership Team of Truly Valued, a non-profit 501(c)(3) in Sarasota and Manatee Counties, to quickly reimagine their mentorship program for middle and high school young women. They skillfully transitioned to a creative virtual environment without pausing for a moment. Their commitment to the young women in their sphere propelled them to continue fostering self-esteem, confidence, academic involvement, and empowerment. The online, flexible, one-on-one environment supported a sharp refocus on mentoring relationships’ that play an important role, especially during uncertain times.
A Bit About Truly Valued
I recently caught up with Shavonne Simon, the founder of Truly Valued. Hearing her describe how some of the young women reacted to these changes piqued my curiosity. I am intrigued by how some people crumble when faced with adversity, while others face the adversity head-on and become stronger from experience. The word resilience is my resounding takeaway; these girls made adjustments under adversity but are coping well because of their resilience and determination to flourish, regardless of circumstances.
The Mentoring program honors strength in their mentees, and this time felt no different. “It has been challenging at times, keeping the girls connected on Zoom while understanding that nothing can replace in-person connection. We have stayed engaged, which has been important for our young women during this time,” says Shavonne Simmons. One of our young women had the idea to host a fun interactive virtual jewelry-making workshop, so we supported her creativity and mailed supplies to each girl’s home and held a creative young women-led event.
Several young women are currently home-schooled, and Shavonne conducts regular check-ins with families to see how they are doing emotionally. Under challenging circumstances, the need for parenting support and an outlet to connect inspired her to develop a Parent Support Network, which will be available in October. Due to the pandemic, Truly Valued canceled several important 2020 events such as their summer college tours, an annual Tea Party 4 Girls event, Taste of New Orleans Benefit Dinner, and Christmas in the Park. The Tea Party event includes education on teen pregnancy prevention and connects young women with prominent community leaders. The event is rescheduled for April 10, 2021.
During this time, Shavonne had the opportunity to write and publish three children’s books, Olivia’s Dream, Olivia Finds Love, and Olivia Has a Heart. These are storybooks for children ages 5-11 with messages of hope, courage, and bravery—available online.
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“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.” ~ Ruther Bader Ginsburg
Photos from Shavonne Simon