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What does it take to turn girls into DIVAS?

You may be surprised by the answer. “Girls 2 DIVAS is an acronym for driven, initiative, virtuous, astounding, and successful,” explains Janay White, founder of the organization. “The girls in our program expand their career aspirations and connect with mentors who teach them the skills they need to be successful in whatever they choose.”

Founded in 2011 as a way to expand her joy of mentoring, Girls 2 DIVAS is one of nine organizations being recognized with a $2,000 grant for their work by the Beatitude Foundation and #GiveTLH, a community effort underwritten by philanthropist and businessman Rick Kearney.

As a dance instructor at a Miami summer camp called Girl Power, White connected with her role as a mentor to the middle school-aged girls she taught. When she moved to Tallahassee, she knew that her work would continue. 

It’s her way of paying it forward. After living a life of poverty, bullying, and abuse, her faith in God and belief in herself inspired her to work towards something better. She earned a master’s degree in Social Work at Florida A&M University and invested personal funds into developing her mentorship program, beginning with one middle-school girl. 

“We now have 35 girls in our program and are working to expand in the future,” White says proudly. The organization is 100% volunteer-run and operates on a shoestring budget.

An active board of directors and dedicated volunteers work together to provide one-to-one mentoring, monthly workshops ranging from life skills to entrepreneurship, academic tutoring, weekly DIVA chats, and a new book club. “Our next book is ‘Piecing Me Together’ by Renee Watson,” White says excitedly. “I can’t wait to send it to the girls!”

Housed at Philadelphia Primitive Baptist Church, the organization has adapted to operations in COVID-19. “We’ve started having monthly DIVA boxes that they can pick up and which have all of the material they need for the month, and then we meet online.”

The most recent box included items for a unit on self awareness and self esteem. “Having the virtual events actually helps us to involve parents,” White explains. 

At just 31 years old, White is just getting started. “I have a big dream of creating a musical theater production where my girls can have hands-on experience in different elements of creative arts.”

From writing to design to project management and marketing, the program could be a launching pad for a variety of career paths. But, she needs more funding in order to do it. “We rely on donations and the small grants that we can receive,” White said. White’s tireless fundraising has helped make her dream a reality, but she’s hoping to expand the mentoring services and serve many more girls in 2021.  

“We have to do better by our youth,” she says emphatically. “We are helping to shape their minds, so they can see new and creative paths.”

By hosting professionals in non-traditional careers to speak to the girls, White works to connect them with potential mentors and open their minds to career paths they may not otherwise consider. “We have had business owners, even an astronaut and a cruise ship director,” White said. “We’re always open to anyone with a positive message to share.”

Donations are accepted through the organization’s website, www.girls2divas.org, where you can also learn about mentorship opportunities and volunteer needs.

The #GiveTLH series will culminate in November with a chance for Tallahassee readers to vote for their favorite profiled nonprofit. In addition to a micro-grant for each featured organization, the top three vote-getting organizations will receive a $10,000, $5,000 and $2,000 grant from the Beatitude Foundation. The stories will be compiled on give.tallahassee.com.

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About #GiveTLH

#GiveTLH, underwritten by the Beatitude Foundation and Rick Kearney, is a look at nine nonprofits in our community and how you can help them in their life-changing work. At the conclusion of this series, Kearney will award grants to the nonprofit that gets the most votes in an online poll. For more profiles, visit give.tallahassee.com. 

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