Daughter of the Collective (DOC) Research and Mentoring Program is a student organization, run by undergraduate and graduate students at Michigan State University. Founded in 2006, DOC members mentor 6th-8th grade African-American girls in Detroit and expose these young girls to a mix of educational, cultural, and artistic opportunities. As Dr. Denise Troutman, Advisor of DOC, so eloquently put it:
“This mentoring program is geared to ‘save’ young Black girls by anchoring them in positive teachings about language, culture, and identity, thus promoting liberatory education and countering negative images of Black females as oftentimes promulgated through popular culture.”
These negative portrayals often contribute to lower levels of self-esteem and self-confidence, especially during the impressionable middle school years. 6th-8th grade is a pivotal time in a young woman’s life. A girl’s self esteem begins to drop during adolescence, and with this in mind, DOC mentor Keondra Dixon, a human development and family studies major, suggested the idea of doing a self-esteem and self-confidence workshop for the girls through the platform of a fashion show. And so DOC teamed up with a fellow student group MODE, a fashion and expression organization at Michigan State, and invited 6th-8th grade girls from Dixon Academy to come and take part.
What made the fashion show unique, though, was what the girls were modeling. Instead of modeling actual clothes, the girls had to make their outfits, but not out of what you might expect.
“They had to make clothes out of unconventional materials such as trash bags, newspapers, and paper plates. If you feel good about yourself you can make a trash bag look good,” explained Dixon enthusiastically.
As soon as the girls had made their outfits, it was runway time. Prior to modeling the outfits, the girls received lessons in posing, walking, and interviewing. It’s in these areas where one’s self esteem (or lack of) tends to show through. By holding your head up as you walk and speaking with confidence are great ways to start feeling more self assured all around.
What’s interesting about this session, though, is that only five girls were able to attend (usually it’s around 20) due to transportation issues, but these five girls ended up being the ones who were the shyest. This was the most rewarding part for the mentors, seeing these mentees, the ones whom are typically the shyest, come out of their shells and work the runway.
“One of the girls is really shy. When we did the runway walk, though, she was really a natural model. Her face just lit up when she was walking down the runway and strutting it and posing. Everyone in the room was shocked, including Dr. Troutman, because we’d never seen her in that element. We really brought her confidence out and I was like like ‘Yes, we’re doing what we’re supposed to do,’” said DOC mentor Jade Williams.
After talking to the DOC advisors and Dr. Troutman about the fashion show and DOC, I can safely say each and every one woman is incredibly passionate and dedicated to helping these young girls become confident young women. They want these young girls to feel empowered and good in their own skin, even if it’s a little different than the norm. As Williams said:
“One of the things DOC does overall is that you don’t have to fit into the place society wants you to be. You can be whatever you want to be.”
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor like these dedicated women, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your inquiry. For more information on DOC, make sure to visit its website.