Program encourages girls to set goals

In the quiet of the Renaissance Middle School library, a half-dozen girls talk about a half-dozen ways Michelle Easley has affected their lives.

Imani Dennis said she was something of a loner who never would’ve had the courage to run for vice president of the student body.

LaShawn Simmons couldn’t have imagined being proud of being called a nerd.

At one time or another, they say, they’ve all profited from Easley’s advice and the people and programs the 42-year-old educator has introduced them to since they joined Ladies of Achievement.

The program is an offshoot of Gifted Elegant Magnificent Motivated Sisters, a mentoring program Easley started more than 10 years ago when she traded her corporate job for a classroom at the old C.D. Hubert Elementary School in Atlanta.

Hubert Elementary was hosting a career fair that day when one little girl, responding to a speaker’s query about what she wanted to be when she grew up, said “nothing.”

The girl explained that her mother slept all day and only got up to go to the mailbox to look for her check. I want to be like her, the girl said.

In that moment, Easley said, she knew she had to do something to equip girls to make positive, healthy life choices.

“I was blessed to have a mother to do that for me,” she said. “I wanted to empower them to reach their goals.”

Today, the single mother of two meets with girls — about 100 of them — first and third Tuesday mornings to talk about and plot their futures.

Easley brings in speakers to the Fairburn school to talk to them about career options and finding their passion. She takes them on field trips and exposes them to volunteer opportunities in the community. For the past two years, for instance, the group has collected food for Hosea Feed the Hungry.

When needed, she takes time from her day to just listen to them.

It’s not part of her official duties at Renaissance. She gets no extra pay for working with the girls.

Easley runs a similar program — Divinely Inspired Victorious Angelic Sisters — at Providence Missionary Baptist Church, where she is a member.

“Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve seen the need to save our girls,” Easley said.

Although the name changes to suit the environment, the goal has remained the same: empowering girls to write the ending to their own stories.

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