BY ANDREAS BUTLER
For the past four years, LaKesha Green has been driving from Daytona Beach to Palatka twice a week to help girls in that area focus on self-esteem.
Now she’s offering her free “Phenomenal Princess’’ program in Daytona. The first Daytona meeting was held earlier this month at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.
The program’s mission is “to provide an atmosphere where young women may discover, establish, re-establish and sustain the power and liberation of their God-ordained inner beauty, strength, courage and confidence.’’
LaKesha Green, owner and operator of Phenomenal Princess, said her goal is to help change girls’ lives and their way of thinking.
“I want to show them who they are through Christ. I myself have faced diversity in life. I felt hopeless. I knew that I wasn’t going achieve by being condemned and told that I couldn’t do anything. With this program, I want to give the girls hope, build self-esteem and change minds,’’ she told the Daytona Times.
Branay McKnight is a senior at Palatka High and one of the six program members from Palatka who is graduating this year from high school. She will attend Bethune-Cookman University in the fall.
McKnight related, “I used to be very shy. This program and Miss Kesha changed my life mentally, physically and spiritually. I didn’t have a close relationship with my mother or father. I just never got the love, affection and attention.’’
“My mom never told me that she loved me. I’ve been used and abused by family, friends and those who are supposed to love and protect me. I’ve been molested, drugged, raped. I’ve gone through depression and had suicidal thoughts.’’
Green said she has worked with children for 23 years and recently graduated from Daytona State College with a certificate in Counseling with Addictions.
She was the owner of Cradles of Greatness Day Care in Daytona Beach that closed a few years ago.
She also has run an after-school program in Palatka called Project Reach.
Green said she also has director and staff credentials for child care.
Her program is designed to help young ladies with suicide prevention, abandonment, education, career, jobs, motivation, school dropout prevention, job search, etiquette and life skills.
“We cover what all mentoring programs do. I just deal with the girls on a more personal level. I’ve been a single parent, in an abusive relationship, fighting, held at gunpoint, etc. As a single parent, there are things that you just don’t know but people expect you to. I didn’t have anyone to teach me,” Green explained.
Green said she meets a lot of girls and young women with self-esteem issues.
“A lot of decisions that they are making are based on how they view themselves,’’ she noted.
Along with Palatka, the program also is offered in Orlando. Green brought the program to Daytona because she moved here four years ago; she plans to continue meeting in other locations as well.
Phenomenal Princess is working on 501©(3) non-profit status. Funds for the program come from parents, mentors, private contributions and Green’s friends.
The program has reached out to the public school systems in both Volusia and Putnam counties as well as the juvenile justice system in Volusia County.
“We have connected with a modeling agency. I want to connect with different people in the community who may have a resource that I don’t have that the girls need. My job is to go out and find that resource for them,” Green remarked.
Phenomenal Princess has more than 20 girls ages 7 to 21 involved from Palatka, Orlando as well as Jacksonville. There are now four girls from Daytona who just joined.
Ten-year old fifth grader Khalia Wright said she overcame bullying at Mosley Elementary in Palatka with the program’s help.
“I was bullied in school. Then when I got in the program and got with Miss Kesha, we met with the school and the school finally took action,” she said. “I am not getting bullied anymore. If someone is going through something or getting bullied, they should let someone know so that something could be done.”
Young girls, especially Black ones, face many obstacles, Green shared.
“Many girls don’t have any guidance. There are girls prostituting for money for school-related things like prom dresses, grad night, etc. Some girls can’t have conversations with their mothers. Some of their parents are drug and alcohol abusers. Some parents don’t pay them any attention,” Green pointed out.
“I have been someone for girls to talk to. It’s sometimes a simple conversation that can change their lives. Many girls want to run away. They often repeat cycles of what they see. We have to show them that there is another way. Then you find the kids aren’t as bad and stubborn as they are made out to be. It’s just things they can’t do as a child.”
The Phenomenal Princess program does have access to its own crisis hotline as well as a team of counselors, therapist and psychiatrists.
The group’s next meeting in Daytona will be held on June 3.
For more information call 386-675-2702 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.