Organization continues to instill purpose, passion and perseverance
Ladies of Virtue is celebrating its 10th year of mentoring and supporting young women and girls. Jamila Trimuel, founder of Ladies of Virtue, started the organization in 2011, with the goal of preparing girls ages 9 to 18 for leadership.
Trimuel, a native of South Shore, said her father told her that as an African girl, she could do anything she set her mind to. That stayed with her throughout the years. She said in high school, she had friends whose upbringing was vastly different. She said she realized that positive role models could change the trajectory of someone’s life. It led her to start mentoring in college, as a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s been 20 years since I’ve been mentoring and I truly believe it’s a calling upon my life,” she said.
Trimuel started a small mentoring organization after college, in the Austin community. She also mentored with organizations such as Toastmasters, the Chicago Urban League and the NAACP. She said she had her hand in mentoring throughout Chicago.
While she was mentoring, she said girls would follow her wherever she would go. “They would talk to me about some of the issues they faced. And, one of the things I noticed is they really lacked that support, as well as the hands-on leadership opportunities so they could build their confidence,” she said, adding, that was why she started Ladies of Virtue in 2011, to fill the gap. Trimuel said she was motivated to start the organization for other reasons, including providing “positive role models” for the girls and helping them to live healthy and successful lives.
She added, said Ladies of Virtue prepares its girls for leadership in three ways: character development, career readiness and civic engagement. Since 2011, more than 2,000 girls and their families have been served by Ladies of Virtue. In the future, the organization is looking to serve even more.
Trimuel said the majority of the programming takes place during the school year. The nine-month program teaches them self-awareness, how to set goals and how to accomplish them, how to manage their emotions and exposing them to a variety of career opportunities. “One key difference for Ladies of Virtue, our girls participate in two to three monthlong Innovative Leadership Projects,” she said.
With the Innovative Leadership Projects, the girls identify a topic they are passionate about, they are connected to a community organization based on that topic, and the girls go out into the community and into schools to educate their peers on the issue. Then, they present the impact to community leaders and business executives.
Trimuel said, because of the pandemic, the projects were done virtually, with girls creating podcasts on the topics they were passionate about. She added, the topics this year included human trafficking, biases in the workplace, and proclaiming their brown is beautiful in terms of their natural hair.
Trimuel said Ladies of Virtue is very intentional in making sure the mentors look like the Black girls who participate in the program. “The research shows that girls of color, when they see women who look like them, provides an incentive for them to want to become even something greater because they may not have seen it in the past,” she said, adding, the research correlates with what Ladies of Virtue is doing when it comes to representation.
She said Ladies of Virtue believes they have to fill the gap every step of the way. From skilled trade workers to business executives to healthcare executives to interior designers, there are 80 mentors in the program representing various professions.
Trimuel said mentors go through an intense program which includes five trainings that are trauma informed and which covers what it means to mentor a Black girl and walk life-on-life with her.
After the five trainings, prospective mentors have to sit in on five months of sessions and interact with the girls.
Trimuel added, the reason why they have such an extensive process is because they want to weed out those who just want to put it on their resumes or who think it just looks good to be involved in the program. “We really want to identify those women who believe, like I believe that mentoring is a calling that’s on their life,” she said.
For more information, visit www.lovchicago.org.
Continued from page 1 Jamila Trimuel, founder of Ladies of Virtue, started the organization in 2011 as a way to prepare girls for leadership. Photos provided by Jamila Trimuel
CITIZEN | South End | Week of June 9, 2021 |