Young Black women in Niagara got some extra encouragement to stay in school and stay strong last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic added extra stress to their lives.
A $20,000 grant from the Niagara Community Foundation enabled Future Black Female and Family Counselling Centre of Niagara to support eight young Black women with mental health counselling, financial literacy workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and career guidance and coaching.
The teenagers and youth, ranging in age from 16 to 22, had either dropped out of school or were at risk for dropping out. The goal of the pilot program was to equip the young women to map out a path to higher education or employment by helping them gain control over specific areas of their lives. As a result of participating in the program, several found work to support their goals, one started a business, and most are gaining additional skills by volunteering at local organizations.
The pilot program showed that the potential of these young woman was often at risk because of the lack of culturally relevant support, said Tapo Chimbganda, founder and executive director of Future Black Female. The young women said they faced considerable barriers to success, and they identified their number one source of stress as not knowing what to do after high school. They either didn’t talk to high school guidance counsellors or, when they did, felt their dreams were crushed or abilities minimized.
As a result, Future Black Female will strengthen its career guidance and coaching initiatives, Chimbganda said, and work with partner agencies, such as college and university admissions offices, children’s aid societies, and apprenticeship programs, to increase awareness and reduce barriers. “By providing culturally relevant and responsive guidance counselling, more Black girls and women can make informed decisions and start off on a strong foundation. Black women will have access to knowledge and information that can help them make better decisions for their economic security and prosperity.”