For 2010 OSI-Baltimore fellow Meshelle Foreman Shields, typical approaches to getting inner-city girls engaged seemed outdated, and changing times meant she had to think outside the box to find a way to help the young women in the Baltimore City neighborhood where she was born.
“I wanted to do something a little different in nature that still had the components of mentorship and education,” Foreman Shields says. “I wanted to combine leadership development, self-discovery, and academic support to ensure girls that their immediate surroundings don’t influence the rest of their lives.”
Through “GoalDIGGERS: The Sankofa Project,” 18 young women from the city’s Park Heights neighborhood will have the opportunity to explore their identities and heritage through anthropological research and DNA testing. They will also build their leadership and academic skills through developing fundraising events, participating in cross-cultural exchanges and learning how to perform qualitative research. The project which will culminate in a trip to the West African country of Ghana will also be filmed for a full-length documentary.
“Exposure shifts your point of view of yourself and the world,” Foreman Shields says. “We have to keep exposing young women to positive things and support them when they are doing good.”
Foreman Shields hopes to see her project spark change in the city and be a form of empowerment to other young girls.
“The best way to get others excited is to see a success story close to home,” she says. “If you see that the girl who shares the locker next to you has had a life-changing experience, you know that you can as well.”