Teenshop, Inc. Empowers Young Girls in South Jersey

Teenshop aims to empower young girls to define their futures and change the world. With chapters in Camden, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, Teenshop prides itself on a remarkable record of 100% college acceptance among its participants.

Teenshop, Inc. Empowers Young Girls in South Jersey
Members of the South Jersey chapter of Teenshop, Inc., pose for a photo during the organization's 10th Anniversary Gala on March 3, 2024.

 

Gloucester County, N.J.  — Teenshop, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing college preparatory, mentoring, and life skills programs for girls, is making a significant impact in South Jersey. With chapters in Camden, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, Teenshop prides itself on a remarkable record of 100% college acceptance among its participants.

Teenshop aims to empower young girls to define their futures and change the world. Elleanor Jean Hendley, who spent 25 years as an education reporter and producer/host at CBS 3 TV in Philadelphia, founded Teenshop as an extension of her commitment to empowering girls of color in 1985.

In an exclusive interview, Hendley emphasized the importance of positive representations in shaping young girls' aspirations.

"You have to see it to believe that you can achieve it," she said. "When young people see positive representations of themselves in diverse careers, it helps remove any barriers of doubt about their ability to achieve their goals."

Hendley's vision has expanded beyond Philadelphia to include chapters in South Jersey and Los Angeles. These expansions were made possible by passionate individuals committed to empowering girls in their communities.

Reflecting on success stories across diverse careers, Hendley mentioned, "We are proud of our record of 100% college acceptance." Including success stories like alumna Jasmine Daniels, crowned Miss Pennsylvania USA 2023, and 3rd runner-up in the Miss USA Pageant.

Hendley, drawing from her background in broadcast journalism, emphasized the role of media in shaping young people's aspirations, particularly those from underrepresented communities.

"It’s incumbent upon professionals to ensure positive representations and balance in the stories they report," she said.

Mentorship is a cornerstone of Teenshop's programs, with chapter leaders working hands-on with girls to foster a supportive environment. Marilyn Jamal, regional director of South Jersey Teenshop, highlighted the organization's mission to provide a safe environment where girls from diverse backgrounds can come together, set goals, and serve their community.

South Jersey Teenshop, covering various counties in New Jersey, provides bi-monthly workshops addressing growth, development, social issues, and more. Jamal expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support from the community, noting the crucial role of parents in sustaining Teenshop's impactful programming.

Angela Wright-Yelverton, executive director of Teenshop, Inc., provided insight into the organization's mission in the context of the South Jersey chapter. She highlighted the program's focus on empowering girls ages 13-18, particularly those attending large high schools in large high schools where they are often in the minority.

Wright-Yelverton emphasized the importance of building self-esteem, self-confidence, and resilience among participants and teaching them essential skills to navigate today's society. She described the organization's workshops as meaningful and skillfully planned to address member needs, with titles driven by the Teenshop, Inc. Manual.

Additionally, Wright-Yelverton underscored the crucial role of parents in the program, highlighting efforts to make them feel valued and accountable. She emphasized the significance of parental involvement in ensuring the success of Teenshop participants.

When discussing how Teenshop empowers and supports girls to become leaders and change agents, Wright-Yelverton highlighted the organization's focus on meaningful workshops, activities, and community service projects. She emphasized the importance of exposing girls to successful Black women and providing opportunities for them to engage with presenters who look like them.

Wright-Yelverton also spoke about the organization's commitment to leadership development, encouraging girls to take on leadership roles within Teenshop and their communities. She noted the enthusiasm for community service projects among participants and highlighted the various activities and projects undertaken by South Jersey Teenshop.

Reflecting on her inspiration for getting involved with Teenshop, Wright-Yelverton expressed pride in seeing the growth and success of program participants over the years and emphasized the rewarding nature of her role as executive director.

As the executive director, Wright-Yelverton's role involves guiding the team toward quality programming, scheduling service projects, and making connections in the community. She works closely with the regional director to ensure chapter paperwork is in order and communicates with national leadership and parents to ensure the smooth operation of the organization.

Anaitza Brown, an alumna of South Jersey Teenshop, shared her experience as a member of the program from eighth grade until the end of high school. Initially hesitant to join, Brown found herself increasingly engaged with the workshops and activities provided by Teenshop.

She spoke highly of the program's impact on her personal growth, highlighting the leadership, communication, and teamwork skills she acquired. Brown mentioned various highlights of her experience, including community service opportunities, educational workshops, and the annual Women's History Month luncheon.

Brown credited Teenshop with helping her develop confidence and leadership abilities, noting the support she received from the program's leadership team and fellow participants. She expressed gratitude for the ongoing support she continues to receive from Teenshop even after graduating from the program.

Brown concluded by expressing her excitement for her sister, a current junior, to experience the same positive benefits of South Jersey Teenshop. She looked forward to seeing the continued success of the program and its participants.

Teenshop parent Jen Morris discussed her daughter Jaye Morris, 13, and shared her hopes and expectations for her continued involvement in the program.

"My hope and expectation are for her to continue to gain confidence in herself as a young, Black, teen," said Morris. She praised Teenshop for providing mentorship and a supportive community of talented peers.

Rabu Gary, the father of a girl involved with Teenshop, expressed the importance of parental involvement in the program.

"Parents should be heavily involved," said Gary, emphasizing their commitment to supporting Teenshop through meetings, trips, galas, and donations.

Teenshop's legacy, according to Hendley, lies in its dedicated volunteers empowering girls of color. As the organization seeks grants and funding support, it remains committed to improving life outcomes for girls of color.

For more information about Teenshop, Inc., its programs, and how to support its mission, visit Teenshop's official website.

(This story was produced as part of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University's South Jersey Information Equity Project fellowship and supported with funding from the Independence Public Media Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and the NJ Civic Information Consortium.)


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