Before she turned 12, Zenobia Gordon already had a bad attitude - her sharp tongue led to problems with teachers and friends.
Zenobia said she will enter her teen years with a new perspective after receiving help from mentors in the Big Sisters in Action.
The Augusta group takes girls with academic and behavior problems and provides them with mentors to help them become successful and productive.
"They helped me change my attitude toward people. It helped me express my feelings and talk to people," Zenobia said. "Before, I was mean and selfish. They taught me how to treat other people as I would want to be treated."
After helping girls for more than a year, Big Sisters in Action recently became incorporated as a nonprofit organization, celebrating with a dedication program during the summer at Thankful Missionary Baptist Church.
Maxine Donaldson, president and founder of Big Sisters, said the incorporation make the organization grow stronger. Mrs. Donaldson said the group, which now meets at the Jeff Maxwell Library on Lumpkin Road, wants to construct its own building.
There are about 40 girls in Big Sisters, which uses grants to offer scholarships to participants.
As part of the program, each girl is assigned a mentor who makes daily calls to see how the girl is doing and to offer encouragement. The organization also has regular events, including cookouts, church visits and programs.
A dozen girls met at Jeff Maxwell Library on Aug. 30 to listen to Tara Johnson, president of the Johnson Youth Organization Inc. She invited the girls to join a drill team she was forming. She also spoke about personal hygiene and behavior.
Mrs. Johnson had several one-liners:
On hygiene: "We want people to see you, not smell you."
On the drill team's outfits: "We want to be classy, not trashy."
On attitude: "If you are putting someone down, you could take the same time to do some good."
Mrs. Donaldson said she has other speakers lined up during the year to talk about drugs, alcohol abuse, nutrition, peer pressure, relationships and teen pregnancy.
Christian values are stressed in the programs, which always start with prayer. Each girl is given a Bible and told to turn to Scripture when they have a problem, she said.
"The most important part is teaching them to be godly young women," Mrs. Donaldson said.
Janice Haynes, a teacher's assistant, serves as a mentor. She said Big Sisters in Action tries to reinforce what the schools teach in academics and behavior.
"We're trying to make them young ladies and teach them how to behave as young ladies," she said.
The girls come from Aiken, Columbia and Richmond counties.
Big Sisters in Action welcomes girls ages 7-21. Those wishing to join are required to attend an orientation session and complete an application packet. To become a participant or a mentor, call Maxine Donaldson at (803) 594-0856 or Sharon Davis at (706) 796-6249.
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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