Sistas and Mentors

Program prepares girls for womanhood
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:18 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Styling Zone hair salon, a vibrant green building situated across from Columbia College’s softball field, is usually closed on Sundays. Its slogan, “Where Looking Good is Understood,” might appropriately explain the weekend evening transformation of the salon into a meeting place for “Sista2Sista,” a new Columbia girls outreach program. Sista2Sista is geared to assist young girls through awkward stages in their adolescence.

Amid hair drying stations, bar stools and chairs, approximately 30 girls filtered into the Rangeline Street salon for the group’s second meeting.

After numerous recitations of the group’s creed and election of officers, the lively bunch settled down to listen to three panelists discuss personal hygiene and appearance. Throughout the night, girls asked multiple questions about issues from bra fitting to hair care.

MU student and founder Robin Winn has been working since last summer to establish the group. The program targets black teenage girls, ages 12 to 17, and assists them in transitioning into adulthood, Winn said. Although other youth outreach programs exist within Columbia, Winn feels her program will offer local girls something different. She said the girls feel better about talking to mentors closer to their age.

Kiara Hayes, a 15-year-old sophomore at Hickman High School, looks forward to participating in a group with her peers.

“I’m looking forward to having someone to talk to, look up to and to be around girls my age,” Kiara said. “We’re going through the same things.”

Diamond Stokes, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Lange Middle School, said she was happy with having a mentor close in age to talk to about potential problems.

“You can tell your mom what you’re feeling like,” Diamond said. “But you can’t talk to her like a friend.”

Throughout past months, Winn, 20, made presentations and recruited at various Columbia sites including the Columbia Mall, an African-American studies class at Hickman and the Mid-Missouri Highsteppers, a community drill team. Winn also distributed nearly 300 flyers throughout town. The meetings are held in her mother’s salon.

At the first meeting on Nov. 13, Winn was astonished her recruiting efforts paid off with 23 girls in attendance. The girls are an eclectic group from various Columbia schools including Gentry Middle School, Jefferson Junior High School and Hickman.

“It made me feel good that the girls made the decision to come and weren’t forced by their parents or school,” Winn said.

About 10 female college students, drawn primarily from MU and Columbia College, serve as mentors.

“That’s the direction I want my girls to go — to pursue postsecondary education,” said Winn, a junior political science and Spanish major.

Planned activities include academic tutoring, visiting nursing homes, a spring formal ball and mentoring opportunities.

“I’m looking forward to building relationships with the girls,” said Tarrah Cooper, a 20-year-old MU broadcast journalism major. “(The program) will set an example of being an aggressive student with high scholastic and ethical standards.”

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