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“I did it!”: AFG’s high school graduates share their struggles and triumphs

Jun. 3 2019 | Tags: , , ,

This spring, young women from AFG’s programs are graduating high school! Because of your support, they each received the help they needed to stay focused on their education, earn their diploma, and make plans for the future. Below are a couple of stories from this year’s high school graduates.

Ready for the Future

Meet Yasmine. Yasmine is 17 years old and has been a participant in AFG’s Peer Education program for two years. “High school was challenging at times,” Yasmine recalls. “During my junior year, I transferred to a different school. I was scared at first because I didn’t know anyone and the classes were harder.”

When she needed help with her homework, Yasmine knew just where to turn. “AFG helped me get tutoring in math when I was struggling,” she shares. This fall, Yasmine will be starting her first year of college, where she plans to study social work!

Now that she’s almost done with high school, Yasmine says she will miss her friends and seeing her favorite teachers every day. She is looking forward to the independence that college will bring her, “I’m looking forward to living on my own,” she smiles.

As a soon to be high school graduate, Yasmine had plenty of advice for her younger peers, “Don’t hang around with negative crowds. Be around people who make you laugh and smile! And do your work!”

A Bright Future

Meet Jamica. Jamica has been a resident in AFG’s shelter since last year. “In the beginning, high school was hard. I didn’t have classes I was interested in and struggled to stay focused,” Jamica explains. “My senior year was even harder, because I missed a lot of school.”

Since Jamica came to AFG’s shelter, she has received support that has allowed her to catch up on her school work. She was able to get all the credits she needed to graduate this spring! “AFG also helped me pay my senior dues, and they helped provide me with school supplies and clothing,” Jamica recalls.

During high school, Jamica discovered the classes she liked best were the ones that allowed her to work with her hands. Recently, she had the opportunity to go to a trade conference where she learned about different trades and career paths she could follow. “I really enjoyed learning about tiling!” Jamica exclaims. Jamica had a lot of advice for her younger peers, “Stay on top of your work! And make sure you work before you play. Get into different activities, and don’t work yourself too hard. Have fun!”

Forever Grateful: One young woman reflects on her struggles, and dreams for a brighter future

Oct. 1 2018 | Tags: , , ,

On September 25th, Jackie, an AFG Shelter resident, gave this speech at the Positive Choices, Powerful Lives event. 

Before I came to Alternatives For Girls, me and my daughter were staying with my mom. We weren’t seeing eye to eye, so I decided to leave to avoid further conflict. For a few months, we were staying with family and friends. I didn’t have a sense of direction. I was doing just enough to get by. Basically, I really wasn’t trying. I was homeless, unhappy, stressed, depressed, jobless, out of school, drinking every day, smoking. But one thing I always did was no matter what state of mind I was in, I was a phenomenal mom to my daughter. I made sure that my baby had what she needed.

I knew I had to make a change, for me and my daughter. I went to the Detroit shelter referral center, where you have to go to be referred to a shelter, and two hours later I was at AFG moving in. AFG is perfect fit for me. It’s clean, and I’m big on clean by the way. They helped me with literally everything and I’m forever grateful. I came to AFG with the clothes on my back, nothing else. They took me and my daughter shopping and bought us clothes. They took us to get our social security cards and birth certificates. Two weeks later, a staff member helped me enroll in school, where I am finishing earning my high school diploma and plan to graduate this December.

Shortly after, I began working as a youth leader, for pay, in AFG’s summer camp for younger girls, called Rise ‘N Shine.  I learned how to work with children. I never had a job like this before. The kids loved me and looked up to me. So I had to set a good example for them to follow.

Since I’ve been at AFG, I learned that every situation does not need a reaction. I’ve learned how to save money and how to make an affordable budget.  I’ve learned how to speak and dress for interviews. I’ve also learned a lot of things in our parenting classes. They taught me how to calm a child down when she is having a temper tantrum, and how to eat healthy and teach my daughter healthy eating habits.

My plans for the future are to make sure I graduate high school and pick a career suited for me. I also plan to have a place for me and my daughter and reliable transportation for us. I can just imagine us riding our bikes down the street together. It’s a must that I further my education and my daughter does as well. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in. Thank you!

Alternatives For Girls’ Prom

Aug. 31 2018 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

On August 17th, Alternatives For Girls held its first ever prom! The event was held for the girls and women in AFG’s programs who were not able to attend their own prom. On the day of the event, staff and volunteers transformed AFG’s community room into a beautiful ballroom. Thanks to many generous individuals, businesses, and groups, the room was complete with sound, lighting, a special favor bar with lots of candy, and formal tablescapes.

Before the prom began, the girls and women were pampered by volunteer hairstylists and make-up artists. Once they were ready, they put on their beautiful dresses, shoes, and accessories, which were all donated by generous individuals, and walked down the red carpet. After getting their photo taken, the party began!

The girls and women had a blast dancing along to the music, courtesy of DJ Rue. After some dancing, everyone enjoyed a delicious dinner, complete with dessert. The highlight of the night came when each girl and woman was pronounced Prom Queen! Each of them received their very own crown, and many teared up while putting it on.

The dancing continued until the night came to a close. Each girl and woman left with a smile on their face, grateful for experiencing the special evening.

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank all of the donors and volunteers who made the AFG Prom possible! We could not have done it without your support.

A Bumpy Path: One young woman reflects on her struggles, and dreams of a brighter future

Sep. 26 2017 | Tags: , ,

On September 14th, Dale, an AFG Shelter resident, gave this speech at the Positive Choices, Powerful Lives event. 

I’ve always loved the idea of not being what people expected me to be. I’ve always strived to do the best I can in my own different and artistic way. My life has always been sunny and sweet but as soon as I became a young adult I found myself going down a dark path. At 20 years old, I was homeless and pregnant with no direction or plan at all. The saddest part for me was that I was exactly what people expected, a young black girl who got pregnant and couldn’t do anything for herself or her child. Just another statistic.

Having nowhere to turn and fearing for the wellbeing of my child, I heard about Alternatives For Girls. I, of course, needed shelter but guidance is what I was really after! My goal at the time was to get some type of insight so I could do better and provide for my child. It’s been a slow and trying process but being with AFG for five months, I’ve really made some progress.

Before AFG I had no job, no plan, very little self-esteem, and no emotional coping skills. While living in the shelter, AFG helped me get two different jobs, one at Sew Great Detroit and the other through Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program. They also gave me a case planner who quickly helped me develop a plan, and I was also able to find hobbies to help me cope emotionally and build my self-esteem.

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” While at AFG I’ve learned that there are many different things that can happen in life, but as long as you believe in yourself and work hard everything will fall into place.

I will say this, “It’s not going to be alright, it’s already alright.” A path was paved for me to go down! It may seem bumpy but we live in Michigan, all the roads are messed up. My plan for the future is to obtain a place in which to raise my daughter safely and comfortably, go to school for mortuary science, start my career as a mortician, eventually building a funeral business, and then giving back to the community once I have the means. I was born a winner, not a loser, and I will never give up!

Sew Great Detroit Moves to Ponyride: With the help of a group of dedicated volunteers, SGD moves to their new home

Aug. 31 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

In July, Sew Great Detroit (SGD) moved from the crowded and cramped craft room at AFG that they had called home for nearly 3 years, to Ponyride. Bursting with inspiration and creativity, Ponyride is a nonprofit in Corktown that rents space to budding artists, makers, and entrepreneurs. Its mission is “to be a catalyst for deploying social capital to a diverse group of artists, creative entrepreneurs, and makers who are committed to working together to make communities in Detroit sustainable.”

SGD is a social enterprise program headed by AFG’s volunteers and supported by AFG’s donors, that teaches participants sewing and employment skills. With this move, SGD joins the ranks of over 60 other residents, including Anthology Coffee and The Lip Bar.

Four Young Women Learn to Sew, and Much More

The move coincides with the addition of four new members of the team. The young women, all residents of AFG’s Shelter, didn’t know how to sew before their first week. After only three days, each girl was able to make multiple baby bibs (a SGD staple) on her own.

“Sewing takes a lot of patience. I’m the type of person who has anxiety and sometimes panics. But it’s teaching me to pay attention and slow down. I really like it,” shares Angel, 18.

In addition to having more space and being around other creative business people, another benefit to the move is that it creates a separate space for work outside of their current home at AFG. It is also convenient, located only 2 miles away from AFG. This allows the young women to walk, bike, or take the bus to and from work. “I love that AFG offers a job for us. I like that SGD allows us to be productive and it makes us feel at home in the work place,” Angel explains.

Making the Move

With the support of AFG’s staff, Board of Directors, and Lois Cohn, new AFG Board Member and longtime SGD supporter, the process for applying for space and moving to Ponyride began more than a year ago. “The idea of moving to Ponyride has been a dream since we first launched Sew Great Detroit,” shared Janet McAuliffe, SGD volunteer since 2014.

Once the lease was signed, the space required electrical wiring and lighting to suit SGD’s needs. Thanks to a generous in kind donation from electrical contractor, John Jacobson, owner of J-Power, LLC, the work took only one day to complete.

Finally, with the help of AFG Facilities Coordinator, Robert Blurton, volunteers, and family members, the sewing machines, tables, and supplies were moved to the new space and operation resumed!

SGD Volunteers Teach Girls to Sew, and Build Confidence

SGD was created and made possible by a group of dedicated volunteers. “My favorite part of volunteering [with SGD] is seeing how the women blossom when they learn that they can do something new. The look of satisfaction on their faces when they sew for the first time is priceless!” shares Muriel, who has been volunteering with SGD for two and a half years. Toni, who has been volunteering for one year, agrees, “I love being at the beginning of a promising social enterprise that provides valuable skills to women.”

The new space is a dream come true for the volunteers. “It’s such an upbeat, stimulating place. Our space is light and bright. Even more importantly – it’s ours. We don’t have to share it with anyone. It feels so professional. The move is really a growth step for us,” says Muriel.

“Although we have a small shop (only 300 square feet), the Sew Great Detroit team, seamstresses and volunteers are working in the midst of other artisans that are producing exciting products and services. We have our products on display and every day both visitors and other artisans stop to admire the progress of our new team.  This encouragement is an emotional boost as well as a source of pride that really helps when learning something very new.” Janet adds.

Planning for the Future

SGD has big dreams for the future, “We believe that the entrepreneurial focused environment [at Ponyride] will help our team achieve the goals of expanding capacity to include more members and achieve financial sustainability,” reflects Janet. Another volunteer, Fran, who has been with SGD for almost 3 years, said; “I’m looking forward to watching SGD grow and expand into a viable manufacturing business.”

Currently, SGD is producing its “Hold the Phone” cross body cell phone bag, adult size chef bib aprons, child size reversible bib aprons, and kerchief style baby bibs. As the team develops their sewing skills, additional products will be added to the lineup.

As SGD settles into their new home, one thing that won’t change is the impact it has on its members. “I love being around other productive women. There’s going to be so many skills that I will take out of here,” Angel smiles.

You can check out SGD’s handmade goods at the Ponyride Detroit Design Festival on Wednesday, September 20th from 4 pm – 10 pm and Saturday, September 30th from 10 am – 6 pm and at the Ponyride Market on Saturday, October 14th from 10 am – 2 pm. We hope to see you there!

Eat Your Vegetables: AFG partners with Eat No Evil to teach girls culinary skills and the benefits to plant based eating

Aug. 1 2017 | Tags: , ,

This month, two young women from AFG’s Shelter worked alongside plant-based health food company Eat No Evil to learn culinary skills and the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Eat No Evil makes and sells vegan nutrition bars at local health and wellness centers and hospitals. “Eat No Evil bars are good for your body and for the planet. The packaging is biodegradable and the bars are vegan,” shares Rachelle Nash, owner of Eat No Evil.

Jessica and Sharai have only been at AFG for a few weeks, but they are already taking big steps to work towards their goals. Both young women have secured two jobs, in addition to working part time for Eat No Evil. For Jessica, this experience solidified her desire to become a chef. “I’d like to go to school for culinary arts. I want to learn how to make all the fancy foods,” she smiles.

Since creating Eat No Evil Rachelle planned to reach out to local community organizations, like AFG, to employ its’ participants. After meeting AFG Board Member, Pam Rodgers, and being introduced to AFG, she knew it was a perfect fit. “The idea was twofold, to hire girls at AFG to help make the product and then hopefully employ them in other ways down the line,” Rachelle explains.

For two weeks, Jessica and Sharai helped Rachelle make and package 600 bars for a Rhonda Walker Foundation event held on July 30th. The small group had fun listening to music, melting chocolate, and assembling the bars right here at AFG! “I learned how to make the bars and how to melt chocolate,” Sharai reflects. Now that they’ve learned these skills, Sharai and Jessica talked about making the bars for family and friends, “Now I can trick my kids and say, ‘Here, try these brownies!’” she laughs.

As Eat No Evil grows, Rachelle hopes to add an educational component so that she can teach the community the benefits of eating a vegan diet, “I hope to show them the science behind eating plant based meals,” she shares. In addition, she hopes to become a vendor at Whole Foods and Lucky’s Market.

“I’ve had fun working with the team!” Sharai exclaims as she melts the chocolate that tops each bar. As the group works to complete the last of the 600 bars, Jessica reflects on the experience while packaging one of the Chocolate Coconut bars, “To me, it’s been a great experience.”

Sew Great Detroit Helps Build Confidence: One young woman’s experience learning how to sew

Jul. 5 2017 | Tags: , ,

Sew Great Detroit (SGD), Alternatives For Girls’ social enterprise program that teaches participants both sewing and employment skills, has been hard at work the past couple of months. This summer, they are selling their handmade goods at Ponyride Detroit’s Summer Market Series. The five members, who are also participants in other AFG programs, have created beautiful adult and children’s aprons to add to their supply of tote bags, baby items, cell phone bags, and more.

Building Confidence

Maddie, one of SGD’s newest members, joined in April. She has been a resident in AFG’s Shelter since February and before joining SGD she didn’t know how to sew. “It’s been so great!” Maddie smiles while sharing how her experience in SGD has been so far. “I like it a lot. I’ve been learning fast.”

Since April, Maddie has learned valuable sewing skills, like machine sewing and hand finishing techniques, cutting techniques, and more. “I’ve learned how to thread the needle and the bobbin on the machine, different stitches, and how to align the fabric on the sewing machine,” Maddie recalls.

For Maddie, her favorite part of being in SGD is the self-confidence she has found while learning a new skill. “I love looking at the project that I’ve finished and thinking ‘Dang, I did really good!’ It makes me feel accomplished,” she shares. After meeting specific sewing skill and job performance goals, Maddie earned her own sewing machine. The machine, which was generously donated by an AFG donor, has allowed her to practice sewing in her free time.

Dreaming of the Future

Maddie has also used her machine and new skills for practical uses. “I like sewing because it’s not expensive. If you rip a pair of jeans, you don’t have to buy another pair, you can fix it!” In the future, Maddie plans to expand her skills so she can make her own clothing. “I’d really like to start making clothing, like dresses and stuff, using patterns but choosing my own colors and fabrics,” Maddie dreams.

AFG Blog: Meet Katie

Dec. 2 2016 | Tags: , ,

The author of this month’s AFG Blog, Katie*, shares her story of becoming homeless and finding a home at Alternatives For Girls.

I’ve lived at Alternatives For Girls for six months now. Long time right? I know, but I’m thankful I was able to even stay that long. Before coming to AFG it was rough. My friend got put out of her home and my family said she could come live with us. But, my family grew to be unhappy with the situation and asked us both to leave. For the next seven months, my whole life did a 360. It was the worst experience. I was scared, I had nowhere to go. I went from hotel to hotel, to people I called “friends and family”. I used to work overtime just so I didn’t have to be outside. I sold my phones, my clothes, shoes, and my laptop from school, so we could have a place to sleep.

I became involved with AFG after I was looking on my phone for different shelters. I had visited AFG once before and after looking at pictures, my friend and I decided to call to see if we could stay. I didn’t want to go to a shelter, I was scared, but I felt like it was the best decision.

Once I got on the right track, I had so many job opportunities sent my way, with help from the staff, especially Ms. Angela, Ms. Julia, and Ms. Shanae. AFG is like a family to me, from some of the staff to the residents there. They push me and support me in anything I need. I will truly miss them when I leave. But I’m so glad to come across the opportunity.

The lessons I’ve learned were: being independent, staying focused, and working hard. I use to depend on the world to have my back, but I got a wakeup call and now I just depend on myself. I work so hard because it feels so good when you do it yourself! Since I’ve been at AFG, I’ve managed to accomplish the goals I set for myself like becoming stable, having steady jobs and being happy. I did this with the help of my Resident Advisor, Ms. McKeba. She’s the best and I love her dearly! She pushes me so hard and sometimes I ask “Oh my God, why me?” But I’m glad she sees the potential in me to do better.

My plans for the future are to be genuinely happy and comfortable and to make my family and friends proud! To show the world the great independent woman I’ve become! I love kids and want to become a childcare director or pediatrician.

I really found my passion at AFG too.  I’ve always loved kids but working with the AFG Rise N’ Shine summer camp was the best job I’ve ever had. No worries, just pure happiness. We laughed, they drove me crazy, but I’d do it all over again.

Being a part of AFG gave me a chance to find myself, try to stress less, and remain focused. They gave me housing opportunities once I entered into the long-term program. I also attended groups, where I have learned life skills that I’ll take with me when I move into my own housing soon.

AFG really wasn’t a shelter to me, it was a home I always wanted. Yes, we bicker and stuff here and there but its love. It wasn’t about it even being a shelter to me once I got used to it, it was what I made it and I made it a good experience and I love every bit of it. I really can’t wait to have my own home. But I know I’ll cry like a baby. You guys just don’t understand, without AFG I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thank you for being a part of me and taking a toll on me. AFG is there when you have no one else. Thank you for letting me tell my story.

*Name has been changed to protect her confidentiality. 

July Volunteer Spotlight: Jamika Jett

Jul. 29 2016 | Tags: ,

Each month, Alternatives For Girls’ Volunteer Department, highlights one volunteer who AFG staff recognize as being a dedicated and passionate volunteer. This month, Jamika Jett, a volunteer in AFG’s Shelter Department is being spotlighted for her role as a childcare volunteer! Learn more about Jamika and how to become an AFG Volunteer below.

Jamika became a volunteer in February of 2016 when she decided she wanted to find a useful way to spend her spare time. After learning about Alternatives For Girls through an online volunteer posting, Jamika researched the organization and knew she wanted to be part of it. Jamika quickly decided to sign up to be a childcare volunteer since she had past experiences working with children and knew she could apply her background and skills to the role.

Jamika’s greatest strength is her resourcefulness, a skill that she uses frequently as a volunteer. Jamika has found that she is flexible and can quickly overcome any challenge. Jamika is a role model for participants because she is an advocate for education. She was taught the importance of education as a child and hopes to share its importance with others.

When asked about her proudest moment, Jamika described a day that one of the children gave her a big hug when she arrived to volunteer. The excitement of the child was a memorable moment for Jamika since the children she works with can sometimes be shy. Jamika enjoys volunteering at Alternatives For Girls each week, knowing that she has a purpose and that she is helping someone else.

Thank you, Jamika, for your on-going commitment to being a positive role model at Alternatives For Girls!

Are you interested in becoming an AFG Volunteer? Here’s how you can start:

  • Visit our Volunteer page.
  • Join us during one of our monthly Open Houses to tour our building, learn more about what we do, and our current volunteer opportunities. To attend, contact Jenny Clement, at 313-361-4000 x248. Our upcoming Open House dates are: 
    • Wednesday, August 10th at 10:00am
    • Monday, August 29th at 5:30pm
  • Ready to apply? Fill out an application and contact Jenny Clement, Volunteer Services Manager, at 313-361-4000 x248 or volunteering@alternativesforgirls.org.

Graduation Stories: AFG’s high school graduates share their struggles and triumphs

May. 4 2016 | Tags: , , , ,

This spring, high school seniors everywhere will be counting the days until their graduation day. Graduating from high school is an important milestone for every young adult, but for some, the path to graduating is filled with obstacles, like homelessness, violence in their communities, or even exploitation.

Despite these challenges, young women in AFG’s programs get the help and resources they need to walk across the stage with their peers. We are happy to report that for the 16th year in a row, 100% of the high school seniors in our Prevention Program will be doing just that!

This spring, we will be sharing the stories of the young women at AFG who are graduating and beginning the next chapter in their lives. Below is the first story of a young woman determined to succeed.

A Different Path

Meet Tarra. Tarra is 20 years old, currently a resident in AFG’s Shelter, and will be receiving her high school diploma this June. “I was supposed to graduate in 2014, but I did not. I was influenced by the wrong people and I decided that school was not as important at that time, so I didn’t go. But now I’m ready.”

Tarra has been at AFG’s Shelter for a little over a month, and since then, she has been focusing on finishing her high school classes at a nearby charter school so she can finally receive her diploma. “[AFG] provided me with the motivation to want to get up and go to school every day,” Tarra shares, smiling. “High school has been really fun! It’s motivated me to want to graduate, and to get a job.”

A Bright Future

After she graduates, Tarra plans to attend a local community college and become a nurse. “I might be an RN or a traveling nurse – you get to travel to different cities or states where hospitals need nurses,” she explains. Until then, Tarra can’t wait to receive the diploma she worked so hard for, “[I’m looking forward to] grabbing that diploma, seeing my friends and family, and finally getting it done!” she exclaims.