A newly recognized organization at Troy University is making its mission to lead girls to a better future through mentorship.
The Sparkle Mentoring Club held its first meeting Saturday. There, students met with girls from grades six through 12 whom they would soon mentor.
Brianna McDougle, a junior broadcast journalism major from Tuscaloosa and mentor with Sparkle, said that she wants to help girls prosper in the community.
“What I want is for the girls to be themselves and not let society fold them,” McDougle said.
Erikka Caldwell, a senior biomedical sciences major from Selma and founder of Sparkle, said that the organization was inspired by previous work with girls in a different program.
“Initially, I used to do a lot of community service with Upward Bound,” Caldwell said. “After being inspired by my Upward Bound students, I decided in January 2013 to start Sparkle. They really inspired me by just talking to me, telling me about their problems or ask(ing) my advice.”
The group specifically works with girls in grades 6 through 12, a time that Caldwell calls the “peak season” for those being mentored.
“The things that happen, relationships, puberty… it’s prime time for them,” Caldwell said. “In elementary school, there isn’t much that you can talk to them (students) about that will actually stick to them. They are more mature now in middle school and high school, and they will really listen to you.”
Caldwell has many plans for the future of the organization. She said she plans to have a pageant at the beginning of the spring semester and would like to go to the tiara ball, held at Bush Memorial Baptist Church in Troy.
Caldwell said that now that the organization has been recognized by Troy, it can do more.
“Now that we’re a Troy University organization, we can do more and go out into the community more.”
Previously, the group has mostly done community service. Caldwell said that the organization has worked with Habitat for Humanity, the Noble Manor and others, and will continue to have community service projects in the future.
The Troy University chapter is the first of many that Caldwell plans to start.
“I am working on two other Sparkle chapters,” Caldwell said. “Other than Troy University, I have one opening up in Meridian, Mississippi, and another in Selma, my hometown.”
Ninti Jackson, a 10th-grader from Pike County High School, said that she looks forward to really participating with the group.
“I enjoy being around everybody,” Jackson said. “We can build a great sisterhood.”
Brittany DuBose, a junior broadcast journalism major from Troy, said that the mentors really want to help the girls feel confident with themselves.
“Our goal is to have the younger girls have self-confidence and understand that they can do anything they want to do with the right mindset and with the right people behind them.”
Caldwell said that she is looking forward to getting out into the community and hopefully touching the lives of many girls.
“We are trying to go out into the community and letting people know about Sparkle,” Caldwell said. “We just want to let everyone know that we’re here for the teenage girls and we want to help them grow. We’re here for them.”