The Greek definition of philanthropy is “love of humanity.” For the most part, I think people typically equate philanthropy with rich people who donate a lot of money to a good cause. So I don’t consider myself a philanthropist in that sense of the word, but rather the original Greek version: I have a love of helping young girls. Continue reading
For the last four years, with Polished Pebbles, I have been empowering girls throughout Chicagoland to find their voices by equipping them with effective communications skills, providing access to proper mentors, and exposure to powerful life experiences. It has been an awesome experience to reach over 500 girls with the assistance of numerous organizations, businesses, and hundreds of volunteers and supporters. But, perhaps what’s been most amazing for me is the opportunity I’ve had to grow right along with the girls, personally and professionally. I often share with the girls that a big of part of my drive in starting Polished Pebbles lies in the truth that I too was a shy girl, and it took me until I got to college to really unleash my leadership abilities, and build my confidence.
I had a personal mentor of mine who always impressed upon me that “we’re always teaching, and we’re always learning.” I’ve had lots of growing pains building Polished Pebbles, and finding my voice in this new venture has been a journey. But, I’ve come to realize now that we’ve learned a lot in creating Polished Pebbles and growing it from a single site group mentoring program with less than 20 mentors and only 2 girls at our first monthly meeting, to a program that has served 500 girls through 15 program sites serving University of Chicago Charter Schools, Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Housing Authority. I feel impelled and that it’s my responsibility to our communities to share some of what we’ve grown through during this Polished Pebbles experience; this will include strategies that we’ve learned, and knowledge gained from staff, volunteers, partners, and of course our girls.
Every Thursday, you can expect a weekly update to this blog, “Kelly Fair The Mentor” including:
- Encouragement and support in realizing the role each of us can play in impacting our youth
- Tips and strategies on strengthening mentoring efforts in your communities
- Insight from our rock-star staff, volunteers, and families, and of course our girls!
As I continue to grow and develop along with Polished Pebbles, I look forward to sharing the journey with you.
A couple of weeks ago at our Polished Pebbles’ Open House for interested mentors and volunteers, over 50 women made the commitment to challenge themselves to declare at least one thing that they have to offer the Polished Pebbles girls, community, and organization. They participated in a 7-day social media challenge were they included things like:
Quite often far too many of us feel ill equipped to tackle the issues in our community, but the reality is that we have everything that we need for healing and empowerment! So, join us and declare at least one thing today that you have to offer the Polished Pebbles community, or the girls or youth in your community! Is it your commitment, positive attitude, marketing skills, fundraising skills? What do you have to offer? Please let us know below in the comments section.
If you’re interested in volunteering or mentoring with Polished Pebbles in Chicago, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our next mentor/volunteer orientation will be September 28th from 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. at the Chicago Urban League (4510 S. Michigan Avenue) or visit the Polished Pebbles page for more information http://www.polishedpebbles.com.
“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.