A Baltimore mentoring group called My Sister’s Circle is among those celebrating a graduation this spring. Four years ago, their first class of high-school graduates –numbering exactly two young women — started along the road to higher education, having managed to avoid many of the risks of growing up poor in Baltimore City.

“Teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol addiction, incarceration, neglect and dropping out of school” – those are the main ones”, says Heather Harvison, a local educator and businesswoman who founded My Sister’s Circle in 2000.  New in town, Ms. Harvison approached the principal of her local elementary school with an offer to volunteer for whatever they needed. “What she needed was mentors. She told me how her bright, confident fifth grade girls would make a dramatic turn for the worse by the seventh grade. She asked for mentors for these girls.”

From this first class of fifth graders, My Sister’s Circle is now honoring six high school graduates and the two young women who have just completed college.

Shaniqua joined the first class of My Sister’s Circle in 2000. She was living with her bed-ridden, severely demented grandmother, because her drug-addicted parents had failed her. There were years of hard work ahead, and she needed someone to count on.  Today, Shaniqua is graduating from Stevenson with a Paralegal Studies degree.

Many  success stories later, over 120 middle and high school girls have been matched with mentors who organize cultural, educational and recreational events for the girls.  Mentors organize trips, elicit summer camp scholarships, become friends, and work with the girls and their families along the way to young womanhood. My Sister’s Circle has a schools and college counselor to help younger girls with the school selection process, and with the financial aid process when applying to college. Mentors look forward taking a college visiting trip with their mentee. “It’s a goal,” says Harvison, “but not the only goal.”

Women who are interested in volunteering to become a mentor are encouraged to call My Sister’s Circle at 410-303-5806 or email lela@mysisterscircle.org.