Sierra J. knows the pain of looking for acceptance.
Growing up in Philadelphia, the 15-year-old practicing Muslim, fielded question after question about “that thing on her head.” Some people wouldn’t give her a fair shot because of the hijab that covered her head. Instead, they’d assume she was a threat. Awkward stares and silent judgement were a part of her daily life. But with the help of Sierra’s mother, she learned that people are sometimes afraid of what they don’t understand.
As time went on, Sierra began to find strength in her faith, but just as she was on the verge of finding her footing in
Philadelphia, Sierra’s family had to move, in hopes of establishing a better life in Atlanta.
Sierra was terrified.
Not only did Sierra have to adjust to living in the South, she also had to settle into a Boys & Girls Club – an after-school program her mom believed would be a safe haven for her and her younger sisters. She didn’t know what to expect and the question kept haunting her, “What if they don’t like me because of what I wear?”
Weeks went by before Sierra came out of her shell. As expected, her new friends asked a lot of questions, too – why did she wear her hijab and what did it mean? But over time, she began to feel a real sense of belonging.
And when Sierra met Club learning center instructor, Ms. Chambers, things really began to change. Sierra was introduced to the Marel Brown Creative Writing Program and found a way to express what she had been holding in all these years.
“She told me to write about what was in my heart.”
Mixed reactions and all of the questions in the world today inspired Sierra to compose a poem fittingly titled “My Hijab.”
“Ms. Chambers asked me if I was comfortable writing about it. I felt more open after sharing my feelings. It’s the first time I wrote about my hijab.”
Studies show that Sierra is not alone. Youth arts programs, like creative writing, foster a sense of belonging, encourage self-expression, and increase self
confidence. These programs also reinforce fundamental skills such as reading, writing, and public speaking that youth can use in the classroom and beyond.
Club staff says Sierra has completely come out of her shell.
“She is a natural leader. She steps up and gets things done. The kids really respect her,” said teen director Billy Anderson.
Sierra wants her journey to encourage others to be themselves. “I know what it’s like to be different. I hope my poem can help make a difference.”
Our programs awaken kids to a new world of possibilities they never realized before and we need your help as we work to create success stories while promoting diversity and acceptance throughout metro Atlanta. Your support is not just a donation, it’s a gift. It’s the gift of a week at Camp Kiwanis for a Club member who’s never left their neighborhood, or the gift of a college tour for one of our seniors. And it’s the gift of a voice found through writing and poetry for a once quiet-natured Club member like Sierra. YOU can help our kids embark on a path of self-discovery and achieve Great Futures.
To make your gift online, please visit http://www.bgcma.org/donate or you may send your donation by mail to Attn: Individual Giving, 1275 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 500, Atlanta, Georgia 30309. Please make all checks payable to Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta and include “Academic Success Gift 2017” in the memo.
All gifts are tax-deductible and represent a contribution to the overall mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta: to save and change the lives of the children and teens that need us most.