Local Girls Mentoring Program Tackles Bullying through Education

M.E.A.N. Girls Empowerment is fostering a safe space for Chicago girls who may be impacted by the growing pains of bullying, aggression and crime.

When Shatina Edwards was growing up, she was bullied. Seeing the lifelong effect it had on her mental health and self-esteem, she set out to tackle the problem head on by mentoring young girls for a living. But while working with high school girls through a variety of organizations, she found herself in middle school again.

“When I saw girls being bullied, I started to feel those same feelings come up for me,” Edwards says. “But knowing I eventually overcame those situations through influential people in my life, I realized that not everybody has that support system to get past bullying.”

In 2014, this reality served as a catalyst to create Manage Emotions Avoid Negativity Girls Inc., aka M.E.A.N. Girls Empowerment (MGE). The local nonprofit fosters a safe space for girls ages 8-18 who may be impacted by the growing pains of bullying, aggression and crime that largely affect impoverished and low-income communities. MGE is the only Chicago-based girls mentoring program exclusively developed to help tackle bullying by educating girls.

MGE identifies girls who reside in Chicago’s disadvantaged neighborhoods or high-risk communities that are typically plagued by violence, unemployment and chaos, and who lack parental guidance. 

“Most of the girls lack appropriate support and resources to manage bullying, so we go in there to create a positive, welcoming and supportive space nearby to help guide these girls into becoming leaders in their own families and communities,” says Edwards.

Photo credit: M.E.A.N. Girls Empowerment

MGE’s custom-based curriculum includes role play, hands-on activities and peer group peace circles through mentors and mental health professionals. The organization also offers postgraduate mentoring through career training.

“Being in M.E.A.N. Girls has been great,” says 13-year-old Jordin, a current participant. “I have formed a close bond with the girls and an amazing bond with my new mentor. The girls in the program have such positive vibes and I love how we can laugh and enjoy our time together. My mentor is not just a role model but it’s almost like she is my best friend.”

The organization was recently recognized by the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center with a Unity Award which recognizes individuals and groups that empower others to take action, advocate for those who need support, or share acts of kindness that cause a ripple effect in their communities. 

To date, MGE has supported more than 1,500 girls in 37 local communities.

“For years, I thought the work that we were doing was going unseen,” says Edwards. “We work extremely hard to prevent bullying within our community and educate girls about this epidemic. There’s still more to do, but it is encouraging to see success.”

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Lori Orlinsky
Lori Orlinsky
Lori Orlinsky is an award-winning journalist and bestselling children's book author. She is the mom of three little ladies who keep her on her toes.


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