Academy creates 'sew' many opportunities for underserved youth

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "Our children go through challenges growing up in cities such as Trenton, New Jersey," said Ayana Abdul-Raheem. "Very limited resources and they need support."

Abdul-Raheem says someone has give them opportunities to stay on the right path. And after working as an administrator with local law enforcement, she decided to become that mentor that young girls need.

"What I found in my experience working there was a significant lack of services and programs for high risk children, especially girls," she said. "There were a lot of young ladies on my caseload and so I decided myself that I was going to do something about it."

Abdul-Raheem grew up in the house where her parents founded Timbuktu Academy, an early childhood center, in the early 1980s. Since then, she has taken the reins and founded its successor, Timbuk2 Academy, offering youth programs to girls in the very same building.

Starting last year, Timbuk2 has offered summer courses called, "SEW So Dope," in order to teach girls how to sew their own clothes.

"We're going to teach you how to take items that were already used to up-cycle those items and create new masterpieces," said Abdul-Raheem. "It allows them to see how they can make things beautiful out of something that somebody else thought was trash."

11-year-old Caila Terry and Journee Harris were proud to have crafted their own pajamas, tutus, and shirts thanks to their new skillset.

"I had no clue that I could come this far in the sewing career," said Terry.

The longtime friends can't believe they used to simply sit at home and watch television now that they've learned how to sew.

"Now, like, I actually know that I can't doubt myself," said Harris. "I have to try before I judge myself."

The participating girls will show off their skills at a fashion show next Friday. Family and friends are invited to see their creative designs and learn how far they have come as individuals.

When SEW So Dope concludes for the summer, Timbuk2 Academy continues to offer more early childhood programs throughout the year. To learn more, visit their website.

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