Education first, fun later

Latasha Grant

BY JOYCE NANETTE JOHNSON, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Pretty Young Bosses, Inc. (PYB) is a non-profit girls’ program that was developed by Latasha Grant, executive director and founder, to be a safe place where young ladies between the ages of 10-17 could speak freely with adults, get academic help and experience personal growth.

Grant was jump-started into action when she befriended a young girl of 16 whom she met while working at a local urgent care center. Though young in years, the woman-child had experienced horrific events that eventually led to her being placed in several group homes and had run away at least three times.

She said the teenager revealed to her that she had become a prostitute to survive in the streets. “I wanted to help her, but lost contact with her,” she said.

Vowing to help as many young ladies as she could avoid life on the streets, PYB strives to connect young girls with mentors and academic specialists while also providing fun activities. Grant feels that one-on-one mentoring is the key to success for the organization.

Launched in February of last year, their mission is to commit to building that big sister to little sister bond through emotional support, long-term relationships and proper etiquette. PYB is also dedicated to assisting in math and reading as well as continuing educational opportunities.

The 22 girls now meet two to three times a week at different recreation centers and the homes of the mentors. They begin each meeting by joining hands in a prayer circle. “Education first, fun later” is the mantra of the group.

Academic progress is reviewed and any achievement is celebrated, while those needing extra help are linked to the program’s academic specialists who can offer specific tutoring tailored to meet the needs of that student.

The remainder of the meeting time is a changing list of activities that the girls help to create. The events have included kickball and double Dutch contests; the girls also spend time on personal vision boards and encouragement letters to each other.

Grant emphasizes outreach programs in the community for the girls to participate in, such as feeding the homeless and neighborhood cleanup activities. They will hold their first community yard sale at the Enoch Davis Center Oct. 15.

“I want this to be a long-term, growing program,” she said. “We want the girls to come back and give back to the community.”

Grant, a single mother of three aged 8-12 years old, said she felt isolated and alone after the divorce of her parents, which created a void between her mother and herself.

“My mom worked a lot and we didn’t build that bond,” explained Grant. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to except my older sister.”

She feels that the lack of open communication with her parents contributed to her becoming a teen parent; however, Grant didn’t let her circumstances cripple her life.

The Northeast High graduate continued her studies earning an AA degree in paralegal studies from Everett University and an AA degree in the medical assistant program at St. Petersburg College.

“Kids want to do better but sometimes their environment at home or school won’t let them,” she shared. “They have to be showed something different.”

Grant said the girls are excited and want to meet more often, but they are in need of more mentors.

“If I, myself a single parent of a special needs child and two young queens, can give back and help our young queens in the community, I know a lot more can as well,” she contends. “We are needing more mentors, sponsors and volunteers desperately so we can expand our group even more.”

The goal of PYB is to let girls know that they have “family” outside of their relatives that care about them.

“We want them to think of us as big sisters or godmothers. They are queens and they can do better in life,” Grant averred.

PYB includes board members Natalie Parker, vice president; Unisha Bullard, secretary; Shauntiel Bennett, advisor and Latesha Jackson, treasurer. Kyra Daniel and Jamie Pitts are the academic specialists, and mentors include Dominique Evans, Kapresha Harris, Shana Critton and Latayvia Gamble.

For more information, please call Unisha Bullard at (727) 488-3439 or email PrettyYoungBosses1@gmail.com.

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