When Roe Anderson was growing up in Chattanooga's Southside, and later in the Brainerd area, she and girls she knew were suffering from things on the inside that revealed themselves outwardly in seemingly unrelated ways, such as poor performance in school or irresponsible behaviors.
"I freestyled a lot of my life, with no guidance and no direction," said Anderson, who made it her mission to change the trajectory of the lives of the next generation of black girls.
In 2017, Anderson, now a local art and yoga instructor, founded Girl Stance, a nonprofit organization that gives black girls opportunities to create change and become leaders by engaging in activities such as yoga. In the process, they also learn skills such as problem solving, mindfulness, entrepreneurship and creativity, Anderson said.
Girl Stance offers weekend yoga retreats for middle and high schoolers and a yearlong mentorship program, Girl Ambassador. Designed for high school girls preparing to transition to independence, college and careers, the Girl Ambassador program pairs participants with an adult female mentor based on their interests.
Participants also attend three-hour monthly workshops focused on different activities or educational topics, such as yoga, mindfulness, economic resources and health. For example, a ballet teacher may talk to participants about poise.
At the most recent workshop, the girls did yoga and explored their creativity through art, said Anderson.
"It's a great opportunity for girls to understand what living a life of purpose looks like and feels like," she said of the program, which is held in different locations around Chattanooga each month.
Limited to 12 participants, the Girl Ambassador program is accepting applications through March 13, or until the spots are full. Girls are accepted into the program on a first-come, first-served basis.
Girl Stance began as an after-school program for girls at East Lake Academy, but has since expanded to serve black girls from all backgrounds and all areas of Chattanooga, said Anderson. This is the second year for both the Girl Ambassador and yoga retreat programs.
Held in nature, the immersive three-day yoga retreats feature twice-daily yoga classes, catered vegan meals, and daily discussions and activities involving health and wellness, personal growth, self-esteem and creativity. Participants also learn basic outdoor camping skills and do all activities in teams to help build relationships, she said.
Two separate retreats are held, one for middle schoolers and one for high schoolers. Each is limited to 25 participants.
Flyers about the retreat will be distributed at local schools in April, and girls can register online on the Girl Stance website.
The organization is always looking for women of all backgrounds and races to serve as mentors in its Girl Ambassador program, said Anderson.
"We're looking for women who are genuine, authentic and who want to help girls build a life with purpose," she said.
To register for programs or to volunteer, visit girlstance.org.
Contact Emily Crisman at email@example.com or 423-757-6508.