Days before many girls in the summertime Eryn Pink Mentoring program log back on to start another school year of remote learning, they met in person in attempts to battle stereotypes, inequality, and mental health.

“This is a critical age,” said program creator Eryn Hathaway. “Middle school is so important for critical development.”

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The program started five weeks ago with 30 African American young girls. They broke off into six groups to select an issue of their choice and present an action plan to help in a solution.

Topics selected included stereotypes, hair discrimination, inequality in schools, and mental health.

Nia Dubose, 12, said she battles anxiety and knows it’s an issue that needs to be discussed.

“I think it’s very important to speak out,” Dubose said. “That’s one of my core beliefs. You need to speak out if you want to be heard.”

During presentations, the girls gave their own accounts of bullying and name-calling based on the color of their skin. They held homemade signs stating, “Love your color,” “Black is the new beauty,” and “My Black is different.”

To fight the injustices, they recommended creating peer-to-peer groups in schools, presenting to local school boards, and placing more positive messages on T-shirts.

Hathaway said she was ready to make the program virtual but her parents wanted to keep the in-person platform.

“It still goes on,” said Hathaway, “the issues that they’re facing. They’re still happening during the pandemic.”

Hathaway said her team will review each idea and pitch presented and select one to execute in the community before the end of the year.

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