Alexandria, VA – Growing up can be tough, but there is one small nonprofit in Alexandria making a difference among teen girls of color – Jireh’s Place. The teen and youth program is working to be the unifying force that provides a warm, welcoming environment for girls ages 12 – 17 while creating a sisterhood in the process.
“It’s a sisterhood that prepares you for life. It prepares you to express yourself,” said Miya, a teen participant. “[It] teaches me how to grow up and be myself and have my own mind.”
The teens from Jireh’s Place meet two times per month on Thursdays at the Leonard “Chick” Armstrong Recreation Center from 6:45 to 8 p.m. During the meetings, the teen participants enjoy a host of speakers on various topics and often complete team-building exercises to create and strengthen bonds of friendship.
Jireh’s Place is a part of the outreach ministry program of S.D. Rawlings, LLC, a company that provides ministry, outreach, consulting, and faith-based apparel. The founder of both S.D. Rawlings, LLC and Jireh’s Place is the soft-spoken yet powerful Dr. Shakina Dunbar Rawlings, an Arlington native who received her doctorate in prophetic preaching from Ohio-based United Theological Seminary.
Rawlings, who was heavily influenced by her studies in divinity and theology, felt a strong calling to help others. She chose to help young ladies because she saw a need, first in Arlington, and then in Alexandria. Rawlings made the decision to create Jireh’s Place to “provide young ladies with resources and tools for successful living.”
Over the years, she has experimented with helping various groups of young women, including 4th and 5th graders, young mothers ages 16 – 23, and teen girls, ages 12 -17. By far, the most long-lasting and successful of Jireh’s Place programming has been the teen group.
Rawlings ran the program at Macedonia Baptist Church in Arlington from 2010 to 2013 and at her alma mater Drew Model Elementary School in Arlington from 2013-2014. She introduced the program in Alexandria in 2012.
Partners and Volunteers
Terry Seegars is another important adult mentor who works with the teens at Jireh’s Place. Seegars works at the Gum Springs Community Center and drives a van that picks up girls from Gum Springs and takes them all the way into Alexandria. By all accounts, Seegars is one tough cookie, constantly fighting to keep her girls active in the program.
“You start it, you finish it,” said Seegars, who has been with the program for three years.
One of Jireh’s Place partners is the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA), which provides an in-kind service of van transportation to transport the teens to and from the meetings.
Gaynelle Diaz, the director of resident community services at ARHA, has been a staunch supporter of Jireh’s Place and serves as one of its volunteer program leaders. Diaz maps out the curriculum for the year and makes sure to incorporate academic, social, and personal development details, as just a few of the important issues affecting young women today.
“This program gives us the opportunity to have a positive influence on young ladies,” Diaz said.