In Girls with Pearls, young women with big dreams build a supportive community

CINCINNATI -- Thirteen-year-old Taya Richard is surrounded by hundreds of fellow students at Hughes STEM High School and by a dozen siblings at home, where she's the ninth of 13 children. Still, she always finds a way to stand out.

"At the end of the day, people will always doubt and undermine," she said. "It's riveting to go past the expectations of everybody for you."

Her goal, she said Tuesday, is to attend college out of state and turn her passions for programming and construction into a mechanical engineering degree.

Her ambition is limitless, and organizers behind the mentorship program Girls with Pearls want to do everything possible to help her realize it. GWP focuses on connecting its young female mentees with local businesses, positive role models and fellow go-getters in their area.

By participating, organizer Tamie Sullivan said, they learn leadership skills in a supportive community of other girls and women.

"It shows you how to be around girls that will bring you up, and in life you don't feel like you don't have anyone," 12-year-old participant E'Nayjah Wilson said.

Terron Wilson, a partnership manager with the retail analytics firm 84.51, didn't always have that kind of community growing up. She grew up in a single-parent home and became the first in her family to earn a college degree, surpassing others' expectations for her life just like Taya Richard hopes to do.

Speaking as a mentor for the Girls with Pearls nearly brought her to tears.

"I looked at the girls and I saw myself," Wilson said. "I'm hoping they looked at me and saw themselves."

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