Even though Danielle Talbert’s grandmother passed away recently, she is not without a grandmother. In fact, thanks to the new “Grandmas & Company” group, she has several grandmothers that she meets with every month.
The group, sponsored by The Campagna Center, was recently started by Joan C. Dale who also coordinates the Grandfathers Group. Dale said that this new group was in response to repeated requests over these seven years from concerned mothers looking for positive role models for their school-age daughters.
“Pre-adolescent African-American girls in Alexandria are at serious risk for gang involvement and teen pregnancy as a result of negative peer pressure in the community as they approach middle school age,” Dale said. “Studies show that ‘while adolescence is a tough time for boys, approximately 30 percent more girls than boys suffer a sudden drop in self-esteem in early adolescence and have lower expectations for their future. Girls need extra support and attention to boost their confidence and to believe in themselves.’”
Danielle’s mother, Sandra Talbert, was interested in the program because it would give her daughter a chance to be with other girls her own age. Living in the West End, there are no similar programs for elementary school girls.
“She enjoys it, and comes home talking about what they discussed,” Talbert said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing. It’s just about the girls — they can talk openly with the women, especially if it’s something they can’t talk about with me.”
Talbert had heard about the program from her co-worker, Lakisha Dennis, who has two daughters, Nashell and Aleeya. Dennis said, “They like going. It’s a nice program that they have. The grandmothers have more patience and life experiences.
THE GIRLS MEET with the “grandmas” from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. , lunch included, on the third Saturday of every month. They do activities teaching respect, honesty, caring, responsibility, fairness, cooperation and other values to help in realizing their potential. Meade Memorial Episcopal Church, 322 N. Alfred Street, is partnering with The Campagna Center by providing space for this new project.
The “grandmas” are African-American women who volunteer their time to work with 8-11 year-old girls from the Alexandria area. The program focuses on character development and cultural enrichment.
The cultural enrichment is one of things that appealed to Amanda Rudd, who agreed to become a “grandma” a few months ago.
After spending 30 years teaching students, she was ready to try something other than working with children and hoped to work on projects instead. However, after she listened to a presentation by Dale, she was sold.
“Joan changed my mind,” Rudd said. “She didn’t push, just explained. I did some soul searching and realized that if you have the skills, it’s good to give.”
After one session, Rudd felt that she really bonded with one girl in particular, and said, “It made me feel like I was able to give something.”
At one point during one of the activities, Rudd asked one of the girls to help her; it was a chance for the girl to feel that she had something to give as well.
As a teacher, Rudd has the advantage of experience, and can see where some of the girls are below grade level in certain areas. Rudd is also a librarian and is hoping to arrange for some visits to local libraries.
“I want to look further into meaningful activities,” Rudd said. She would also be willing to work with the girls in small groups or on a one-on-one basis. They are currently looking for more girls and more seniors to join the program.
“I encourage other women to join,” Rudd said.
Eva Price agrees that it's a great program, and said, "If you have the time, come and join us."
She is also a teacher; retired after 40 years of teaching — 32 in Fairfax County. Yet, she still loves working with children.
"I have the time to help and children are our future," Price said. "They are very special — they like to talk about what their interests are and what's on their mind. It's a wonderful way to spend time with children.
Price said that she looks forward to meeting with the girls every month, and is hoping that by helping them out, that they in turn will be able to help out their mom or dad at home.
"It seems to be working," she said.