Philadelphia woman's "Girls Talk" program helps kids navigate adolescence

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "What girls in this community really need is that platform to come and just dump everything that's going on," said Edwena Lanier, "As well as fill back up with positive, motivational thoughts about everything."

Lanier grew up in South Philadelphia and fondly remembers spending time after school with friends and teachers. This 'girl talk' became crucial to navigating issues that arose during adolescence.

As an adult in 2011, Lanier decided to create an organized "Girls Talk" program. Housed in Universal Daroff Charter School, the program is open to in-person and virtual visits to schools across Philadelphia.

"Our mission is to help girls become more assertive, loving, and kind to all," she said.

Sessions start with an ice breaker followed by motivational speeches, introspection, and a prize raffle. Then, students break out into smaller groups to discuss issues like city violence, personal hygiene, and relationships.

"I also hate when I just keep on seeing people get killed and violence and stuff like that," said 6th-grade student Keymani Ryans.

Each class is designed to tackle affirmations, peer pressure, self-esteem, self-acceptance, and social media. While social media is effective with connecting many students together, it also can act as a breeding ground for self-depreciation and bullying.

"Some girls fight and don't be on each other's sides," said 6th-grade student Nashira Harris-Maddox. "I think girls should get together and talk about things that they most likely don't want to talk about but they need to talk about."

To combat conflicts in school-age children, Lanier and her daughter penned a book titled, "Let's Help the Bully." It recalls a personal anecdote that helped her daughter become friends with a former bully.

Lanier also hopes that "Girls Talk" will touch more students like Ryans and Harris-Maddox in the future.

"We are ready to expand, hopefully to have centers around the city of Philadelphia to really really bring about more partnerships and bring Girls Talk all over," she said.

To learn more about Girls Talk, Edwena Lanier can be reached on Instagram @letshelpthebully2021 or via email at ledwena@universalcompanies.org.

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