For the last 10 years, a local woman has made it her mission to help young Black girls go to college.
“I see myself in the girls that I serve,” said Jamila Trimuel, who 10 years ago founded Ladies of Virtues, a mentoring program that aims to prepare young Black girls for college.
Naveah English started the program when she was a sophomore in high school. “I really wanted to be with girls that are my age, and I can actually relate to,” English said.
As part of the program English, and others, participate in career workshops across the city.
“It gives me time to socialize with people and learn about other careers, other than the medical field because that’s what I’m based on,” English said. “So, it gives me a chance to open up to different things.”
Trimuel says she had a calling to mentor to young girls from her community when she went off to pursue her degree.
“When I was younger, when my parents divorced, when I had some of the difficulties I faced as a child, I didn’t have a big sister to talk to. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I felt like I was dealing with things by myself. That’s why I love mentoring,” Trimuel said.
What started with six participants has evolved to serving more than 2,000 girls in the last 10 years, providing mental health services, mentorship and support for young Black girls and women on Chicago’s South and West sides.
“Research shows that Black girls are viewed as needing less nourishing and support than their peers, and so we know that’s not the case. So, that’s why we’re standing in the gap providing mentoring and leadership opportunities so our girls feel seen and supported every step of the way,” Trimuel said.
Eighth grader Erin Eberhardt has been part of Ladies of Virtue since she was 9 years old.
“I love the people there. I know that if I fall behind on something, they help me stay on track,” Eberhardt said. “There’s someone else to talk to and not just a family member.”
Every student is partnered with a mentor to learn from and look up to.
“I feel like I can do more than what I have done when I started because I’m out my shell now. Because when I first started I was quiet and didn’t want to communicate with anyone,” said English, who dreams of becoming a nurse and traveling the country just like her mentor.
“When I graduate I still want to be in the program and have my own mentee one day,” she said.
The organization serves ages 9 to 18 and runs its programs at schools and weekend gatherings in their communities.
“I like to say you have to be the change you want to see, and I see a lot of people, especially my peers and colleagues are leaving the 9-to-5 sector and starting our own businesses,” Trimuel said. “Starting our own nonprofits because we didn’t have these resources when we were younger. The biggest challenge is to be fully funded in these organizations, to be sure we have all the resources we need for the girls.”
Seven months ago, Ladies of Virtue moved into a space inside BBF Family Services in North Lawndale. For more information about the program, visit its website.