BY HOPE HARRINGTON OAKES
Chandria Lucious looked around one day, and didn’t like what she saw. She was beginning to notice a disturbing trend among teenagers, especially girls, where they were projecting negative self images. Lucious said she wanted to do something about that, so she started a program called “Prominent Women”.
The 15 week-long, three phase program is based in Columbus and targets teenaged girls, ages 15 to 17. Prominent Women wants to empower young women to become distinguished, intellectual professionals.
“The program is looking for teens who express a desired need of loving and support,” Lucious said. “That can be by putting themselves out there in very negative ways such as getting with the wrong crowd, expressing themselves in a negative ways like how they dress, the way they act, the way they talk, how they modify themselves in social media like Facebook, how they talk to their teachers when it comes to school attendance and grade — anything that shows a desire for love and support. That’s what I’m here to try to target and help.”
Lucious began working on the program in 2011 while she was majoring in elementary education. She said was in the classroom, listening to a teacher when started thinking about how she wanted to be a mentor — to challenge herself to help people who are in are in need. “Sometimes (on Facebook), you just see the worst things on there about what they’re feeling and doing,” Lucious said. “There are no filters. They don’t know what to put on there, so they put everything on there. Especially when it comes to attitude and how they look at people, how they view society and how they view themselves. I love to come in and talk with them and basically change or alter their attitude about how they feel about their situation. That’s how I came up with ‘Prominent Women’ basically, because I definitely feel that I can be a great asset to some girls who just do not have it, who do not know how to get it, or do not know where to go to get it. I am from this community and always wanted to give back to Columbus, and this is one way I can do that.”
Lucious said she pulled the data for Columbus and Mississippi to find out more about dropout rates and domestic violence statistics, as well as health prevention information. She said the statistics were high.
Lucious used Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid chart as the basis of her program. Maslow’s chart places important necessities, Survival Needs: water, food, etc. on the bottom. The next level is Safety: security and safety of body and self. The final level is Love/Belonging and that’s what Lucious plans to target.
The program will be put forth in three phases: Distinguished Phase, which will concentrate on Beautification, Revitalization, Self-Awareness, Health, and Sex Education. The Intellectual Phase will concentrate on ACT Test Preparation, Study and Survival skills, College Preparation, and Ethics of Etiquette and Mannerism. The Professional Phase concentrates on Job Training Preparation, Resume Building and Professional Attire, Career and Self-Development Preparation, and Organization Behavior and Skills.
Lucious is featuring well-known women in the community to assist with the various classes. She is also beginning to receive donations of goods and services to help, as well. Melissa Dixon of Bluefish Design donated the creation of the program’s logo; Gabrielle Miller will teach self-defense; Courtney Gillespie is donating hairstyle makeovers. Businesses such as The Grill, Pepper’s Deli and One of a Kind Screen Printing have also made contributions to the program.
Lucious said fundraising for the program is ongoing, and any donations will be welcome. Donors will receive a newsletter, along with an expenditure form to see where their contributions are going. The last day of the program, or graduation day, will have the young women will have the opportunity to present themselves in the “I Am Prominent Day” presentation in which they speak about the changes they’ve made, along with the important skills they’ve learned. The first class graduation will be held on October 14t.
As Prominent Women grows, she hopes to expand the programs, but states that it will only be located in Mississippi. Once Prominent Women is well underway, Lucious said her next project will concentrate on women who’ve been incarcerated and helping them to be prominent women, as well.
“Most women who’ve been to jail have limited opportunities when they get out,” she said. “It takes a lot to develop that trust, once they’ve been in situations that put them in jail. The program will help to help them learn how to get back into society, how to dress, how to look, how to approach people, how to talk of different things. That way they’ll be able to become more trusted with the program’s help.”
Lucious said she is excited to bring this program to the young women of Columbus. She cites a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt as a guiding influence, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”.