"Time is the most precious thing and the most precious gift that you can ever give anyone, and the simple reason is it can never be replaced," says 26-year-old Akeria Lockett.
She is on a mission to help young troubled girls in the community through a mentoring program that she has been working hard on. The name of the program is called "Pearls of Wisdom." It will be for underprivileged, at-risk girls in grades three through 12.
"This is my passion and by far my greatest accomplishment," said Lockett, who has no children of her own but tends to have children around her a lot.
"I believe that's my calling," she said. She commented that it doesn't take a lot for children if you just spend a little time with them.
"That's all it takes," she says.
She's hoping the program will help young girls whose parents may not be able to attend school functions, need help with their school work or someone to talk to and steer them in the right direction.
"Their parents can't do the things that are required of them through the school year," Lockett explained, such as attending parent conferences or spending extra time with their children.
She said the idea to organize a mentoring program started as a vision. She always wanted to start a girls mentoring group, but she didn't know how much support she would get. She presented the idea on Facebook and got an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. From there, she carefully selected 15 women to be on her executive board that she knew would be supportive and dependable. Once the program kicks off, they will need volunteers as well.
"Once we started meeting, it was like it was meant to be," Lockett said. "It has become more of a sisterhood now."
She said as a group, they picked out some names for the program and voted on the best one, "Peals of Wisdom." She said POW represents the powerful ladies on the executive board and the wisdom that they will try to instill in the girls.
"Pearls are so elegant," she said, noting "pearls" went well with "wisdom." "They are so lady-like."
Lockett said they chose to offer the program starting at the age group in third grade, because that's when standardized testing starts. They have three teachers on the executive board who are willing to prepare the girls for the next grade.
"Third grade is when everything starts happening," she said.
The next step is the executive board getting certified and trained as mentors before they accept any girls into the program. She noted all of them have undergone successful criminal background checks.
"I thought that was very important for us, so the community can trust us more with their children," Lockett said.
They hope to begin in July but until then, they will be out in the community.
Lockett said she knew it had to be God's work in the way everything has come together so far.
"I'm going to make this work," she said. "I appreciate these ladies helping me bring this vision to the forefront, because without them, I don't think the vision would have been foreseen right now."
She said everyone is working hard and she works even harder to make it work.
"With every breath of me, we're going to make it work," she said.
Lockett said they will have to spend a minimum of 20 hours per month with their mentees. They will help the girls with their homework and whatever else is needed. The mentors will have a monthly meeting and discuss their progress.
"Whatever it is, we can help," she said. "We're prepared to be that parent figure, that teacher figure, that big sister figure — whatever it is that child needs, we'll be there. We will fill in the gap where the parent can't, and there are no limits to it."
Lockett said they want to steer troubled girls back on the right path.
"So many of them have strayed away," she said. "At times, in most cases, when they have a mentor, they are more apt to listen to someone outside the home."
She said she had mentors growing up who she could talk to. This is what got her into wanting to start a mentoring program. She said her mother did a great job raising her, but "it takes a village to raise a child."
"No, they're not our children biologically, but they are spiritually," Lockett commented. "I had two or three 'villages.' They were always older women. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, and that makes a difference sometimes. Because I was mentored and steered on the right path, I want to help other young girls have that same opportunity."
She added, "We want to try to build that relationship with their parents. We want to work with the parent, as well as the child. We want to try to reach as many children as we can. We're losing our little girls to the streets, teen pregnancy and high school drop-out. We're losing them generation by generation."
Lockett noted Pearls of Wisdom is for any girl who needs help and to be redirected. However, she said the statistics are much higher in young black girls.
"We want to get that percentage down," she said. "We want all statistics down for young girls. It's never too late."
She said there's always room for change and growth.
"We have to let these girls know that there is somebody who cares," Lockett said. "We're ready to create that bond that's everlasting."
Parents who are interested can call Lockett at 326-4238 or e-mail email@example.com.
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.