Miami-Dade County Public Schools educator Rosie Justilien credits positive women for shaping her life while growing up.
That’s why in 2008 she founded the mentoring program Ladies of Essence at Horace Mann Middle School in El Portal.
“I am very passionate about giving back and I felt starting a mentoring group was the best way I could positively impact young girls I work with,” she said. “I firmly believe that life is about experiences, not the ones you make for yourself but the ones you make for others. Therefore, my goal is to make middle school a memorable experience for my mentees and hold them to the highest level of excellence.”
The motto for the mentoring program: “Exemplifying excellence through elegance.”
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The mentoring program offers etiquette sessions, interactive workshops, excursions and guest speakers. At the end of the year, the group takes a field trip to a restaurant such as Olive Garden and Cheesecake Factory, where they apply what they learned in the table etiquette meeting.
The mentoring program has had assistance from the community.
“With the help of Horace Mann staff and members of the community, one year I was able to raise over $10,000 and took them on a spring break college tour,” she said. “The students loved it and made them start thinking about college as some never stepped foot on a college campus.”
Reginald Jean’s daughter Emilie Jean, 15, benefited from the program.
“The mentoring program helped her in many areas as last year Emilie Jean was the valedictorian of her graduating class from Horace Mann Middle School,” he said. “She credits the skills she learned in Ladies of Essence that helped her increase her study skills. As she said, Ms. Justilien hosted various workshops focusing on time management, goal setting and improving study habits last year. I noticed that she interacts much better with me and her siblings as a result of her involvement in the club.”
To be a part of the mentoring program, students are required to attend three meetings at the beginning of the school year and they must have their teachers’ support.
The group meets for 90 minutes on Fridays, and sometimes more than once a week. One-on-one meetings are also scheduled after school if needed.
Students say they’ve benefited by being part of the group.
“Students are able to feel empowered and maintain a positive self image, attained skills needed to be role models in their schools and communities, and it prepares them for success in high school and beyond,” Justilien said.
For information, call 305-725-8034.