“I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time
Know there was something that, meant something that I left behind
When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets
Leave something to remember, so they won’t forget. I was here…”
Sometimes I like to start my session playing the melodic Beyonce tune “I Was Here,” not because Bey knows how to get the party started, but to remind the girls that our legacies begin here and now in Polished Pebbles discovering, defining, and delivering our voices to the rest of the world.
When I tell people I work for a girls mentoring program they often think I’m some type of crusader equipped with nail polish, friendship bracelets, unlimited relationship advice, and a pink cape. That idea could not be further from the truth. I‘m actually just a south side girl with tons of flaws, and not nearly enough “right” answers, icebreakers, or time to achieve every objective. I’m sure if you ask any of my “pebbles,” colleagues, or interns they will all have something different to say because everyone has a different perspective as to what Polished Pebbles is all about.
To understand the Polished Pebbles organization you must first understand the name. The name Polished Pebbles is inspired by a quote from Susan Taylor, Editor Emeritus of Essence Magazine’s last book, All About Love, were she talks about the strength of relationships propelling our personal growth. The quote is, “Like pebbles in a bag we all polish one another.” And polishing one another is truly what we do. When I say polish, I don’t mean adorning the girls with pencil skirts and pearls, but empowering them to be bold and fearless change agents. Changing what and how they communicate to the world first and taking what they have learned back to their classmates, families, and communities. School administrators and parents are some of the first to notice the changes in our students so developing and maintaining substantial relationships with school administrators and parents has been crucial to ensuring the success of our girls. Also, if we are going to be honest, I’m on a journey of self-discovery alongside the girls. Everyday that I work with the girls I’m teaching them to discover their voices, and I am undoubtedly fine-tuning my own voice and better understanding my strengths and weaknesses. Trust me, there is nothing like a 7th grader helping you take a self- assessment to understand what you are not good at.
I met Kelly a year ago and decided to join the Polished Pebbles team. I immediately knew I was joining a “different” type of team. While sitting in Kelly’s very pink office she began pouring into me the confidence to share my personal story with my students. The reality is that no one wants to be vulnerable, not even with a 7 year old. However, being an authentic leader required me to share my own insecurities, failures, and triumphs. Those hours with Kelly helped me to understand that asserting my personal power meant telling my story. Kelly and I have had more Iyanla moments that I can count and as a result, I was polished professionally and given opportunities to hone my grant writing and partnership development skills when others had not given me that opportunity. These experiences were not just my experiences but it is the Polished Pebbles experience. It wasn’t just about polishing the girls but about each and every one of us, students, staff, and volunteers included, leaving this experience better than when we came.
Chanta Williams graduated cum laude from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Chanta serves as a Workshop Facilitator and Development Associate for the Polished Pebbles Girl’s Mentoring Program. She honed many of her development talents serving as a Junior Associate Intern at Lisa M. Dietlin and Associates non-profit consulting firm. Serving as an independent educational consultant she has assisted designing successful one on one peer-mentoring program for the Chicago Scholars, designing and implementing curriculum for various Chicago area college access and youth programs.