LAURINBURG − A new group in Laurinburg is embracing the term “girl power” and taking it to a new level.
Beautiful Women of Artistic Excellence — or BEWARE — is a group for girls and young women ages six to 19 years old from Scotland Early College High School, Scotland High School and other local schools.
Fifteen-year-old Te’Aja McCoy, a freshman at SEarCH, looked at how the world treats women and young girls and didn’t like what she saw.
“In society women are subjected to standards all around the world, whether it’s to dress a certain way, walk a certain way or talk a certain way, us as females are limited and subjected to what society wants us to be,” McCoy said. “We focus on preventing young teen females from dropping out of school, preventing teen pregnancy, community service and helping young women develop opportunities.”
McCoy knew she wanted to do something to give back to the community. She had been concerned about a family whose house burned down, but she wasn’t sure what she could do.
A conversation with a classmate gave her an idea of what she should do.
“She didn’t know what it really means to be female; she didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to be sexualized,” McCoy said. “There are a lot of girls with low self-esteem, and some think that they should be objectified.”
That conversation took place in November before the school went on Thanksgiving break. By early December she had come up with the idea to form the group to empower other girls and be of service to those in need.
She took some time during the school day to write up a plan and by the end of the day she was recruiting members.
“At first I didn’t know what I was doing, but I wrote down what I wanted it to be, and at the end of the day I was going out asking people if they wanted to be a part of it,” McCoy said. “I had my phone out taking people’s names. Some of these people I never even knew.”
McCoy reached out to a former teacher and asked for her guidance in the endeavor.
Carolyn Banks of Partners in Ministry had been McCoy’s adviser for the TSA club at Spring Hill Middle School a club promoting math, science and technology to middle schoolers.
Banks was already impressed with McCoy’s drive, intelligence, talent and work ethic. Her esteem for the girl grew greater once she heard what McCoy was planning.
“I was really impressed when she invited me to help advise. She said, “They have organizations for boys who strive for excellence, but there’s nothing for girls who want to be leaders and who want to serve as role models for younger girls,” Banks said. “She sent a proposal with the motto, contract and information. I was really impressed that she put the time into it and agreed to help.”
Banks is pleased with the enthusiasm and work ethic of the girls and Partners in Ministry has provided a place for the girls to meet.
“I hope to see them do well. It’s a diverse group of girls, very smart young ladies,” Banks said. “A lot of the parents come and participate in the sessions. I hope the community will get behind them.”
By late December, the group had completed its first meeting, and momentum grew from there. The first meeting had 10 girls, by January’s meeting that number swelled to 42.
McCoy decided to open the group to very young girls in hopes of reaching them before society gave them the wrong idea about what constitutes womanhood.
“I know a lot of girls grow up like my friend did, and the older you get, you get more knowledge, so I reached out to little girls and high school girls so they could help each other.”
In the meetings, the girls discuss current events, the importance of a good education and good grades, social issues and personal issues.
McCoy believes that if one of the girls in the group is struggling, then all of the girls are struggling. She says one young woman being left behind is unacceptable.
The group is already making a difference to its members.
Jessica Nguyen, freshman at SEarCH, heard about the group and was excited to participate.
She calls the group “awesome” and said that it has helped her build esteem.
“It’s the best thing ever. The girls in the group are like sisters. We support each other and help each other with personal problems, homework,” Nguyen said. “It has really helped me with my confidence already.”
As to the group’s community work, Nguyen said it felt good to be able to help out others and hopes to see their service projects expand.
Community service is not the only thing the group hopes to expand. McCoy and Riley McCallum want to see the group expand into surrounding counties. Over the summer, they hope to meet at parks in Scotland, Hoke and Richmond cCounties to talk to young kids about obesity and the importance of exercise and to take their message of encouragement to other girls in those communities.
“I hope we can at least get across the counties and into Fayetteville and other parts of North Carolina and reach out to more girls and help them grow and express themselves and build self-confidence,” said McCallum a freshman at SEarCH.
The girls had completed their first service project in January volunteering with Partner’s in Ministry’s food bank. The group wants to hold a food and clothing drive soon.
BEWARE has also planned a banquet in March to celebrate Women’s History Month.
The group has several fundraisers planned. The first has already taken place.
The next will be a plate sale at Scotland Yard Park on Turnpike Road. Fish, barbecue or both with hush puppies, slaw or potato salad and banana pudding will be available for $10, $11, or $15. To place an order call 910-301-1455 or email [email protected]
To learn about the group and its activities, visit https://mizzswagg08.wixsite.com/mysite.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169