Halima Adenegan graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland. In 2012 — four years after she graduated — she started a program to help guide, or mentor, the young women in this high school.
The name of the mentoring program is Imara Roose. Imara is Swahili for strong, and Roose is from part of the school’s name. The mentors are female college students. They volunteer as big sisters and role models.
Each week, the members of Imara Roose gather in a large group to discuss topics that interest them. They talk about physical fitness and being healthy, as well as social media and their self-image.
Sometimes, they talk in smaller groups. In these small groups, a mentor answers their questions. On other occasions, students meet with just their mentor. Ms. Adenegan said these discussions are good for people who are shy or who have private questions.
Ms. Adenegan said the high school women can feel comfortable in the group. They are free to discuss common issues, personal problems and the difficulty of being a teenager.
“I think they just need someone to say I’ve been here, I’ve done that, just follow what I’m doing because I don’t want you to do the same mistakes that I did.”
Justice Davis, who graduated in May, participated in the program. She said it helped increase her self-confidence.
"One of the things I really learned was self confidence. So, like, when I'm in school and I have a doubt, I know that I shouldn't have it. I've learned that everyone's different and I am my own self. I’ve learned what I like, and what I want to do. So that’s really helped me a lot.”
Averi Millet also participated in the program. She said the discussion on peer pressure was very useful.
“I heard a lot of different comments on how you can positively peer-pressure someone and negatively peer-pressure someone, and I thought it was amazing. It helped me actually get through a lot of situations after that.”
Halima Adenegan said the Imara Roose groups also help high school seniors with their college and future plans. They work on applying to college and developing their careers.
A matter of trust
University of Maryland junior Tinsae Gebriel volunteered as a mentor this year because she wanted to return something to her community and help other young women.
“When I come here, I actually enjoy it. I know that every day they go back home, learning a little something and I’m learning a lot from them, too. So it’s like, I’m not wasting or sacrificing my time because I’m actually enjoying it. If you show interest, sooner or later the girls will start to open up to you.”
When young women trust their mentors, she said, they are able to talk about difficult issues.
“Like relationships and also like sex education. There are a lot of questions and misinformation out there. A lot of the information they thought were facts were actually not true. They were relying on some of their friends to answer their questions, and their friends didn’t know the answers either.”
Eleanor Roosevelt principal Reginald McNeil strongly supports Imara Roose. He believes the program has a good influence on his students.
“I think it just broadens their horizon. Most of the students come in and they’re just so narrowly focused because they haven’t been exposed to a lot of different ideas. Being in this program gives them an opportunity to hear from role models. All these young ladies who come back as mentors are in college. They found a way to be successful and they are leading them to the same path.”
Imara Roose founder Halima Adenegan will graduate soon from Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia. She said she wants more college students to start groups like Imara Roose.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Faiza Elmasry reported this story for VOA News. Jill Robbins wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Word in This Story
mentor - v. to teach or give advice or guidance to someone, such as a less experienced person or a child
volunteer - v. to offer to do something without getting paid to do it
self-image - n. the way you think about yourself and your abilities or appearance
teenager - n. someone who is between 13 and 19 years old
career - n. a job or profession that someone does for a long time
give back - idiom. to contribute to society, or return something of value to one’s community
founder - n. a person who creates or establishes something that is meant to last for a long time, such as a business or school
Now it’s your turn. In the comments section, tell us about your mentor, or about a time when you served as a mentor.