HEART OF GEORGIA: Najiva Timothee of Girls Dig Deeper Initiative

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There are many people and organizations who make middle Georgia the Heart of Georgia in more than one way.

Middle Georgia Times wants to celebrate organizations and businesses in middle Georgia doing good things for others. It is for this reason that I asked Najiva Timothee to write an article about the importance of youth mentoring. Timothee is a Certified Leadership Coach and Mentor and the founder of the mentorship program Girls Dig Deeper Initiative.

“I truly believe in the power of mentoring and how it changes the lives of both the mentor and mentee for the better. My mentoring and youth development program, Girls Dig Deeper Initiative, serves and supports middle and high school aged girls in schools and communities.

A mentor can help young people navigate through the difficulties and ups and downs of life. There are many young people today who do not have anyone to look up to for guidance and support as a positive role model. This is a part of the mentoring gap in the U.S. where 1 in 3 young people will reach the age of 19 without having a mentor.

Mentors can be someone the parent or mentee knows such as a family member, teacher, sports coach, or pastor. They can also be someone who the parent or mentee doesn’t know personally yet. Over time, once there is trust and a bond between the mentee and mentor, a good relationship can be formed between them.

The Girls Dig Deeper Initiative helps empower our mentees to take charge and responsibility for their lives. We also encourage them to DIG DEEP within themselves to expand their capacity by reaching their goals and actualizing their dreams. Finally, we help them incorporate good values into their daily lives and teach them to view failures and setbacks as opportunities for further growth and success.

An important skill to develop as a leader is to listen and to understand. As a mentor and leader my listening skills over the last two years have improved as I listened to what my mentees had to say. I learned to let them use their voice to express their feelings caused by situations at home or in school.

I recently asked my mentees what having a mentor means to them. One of my mentees, Centreace McCrea, responded, ”Having a mentor means I have someone to talk to when I have a problem.”

Mentor Najiva Timothee and her mentee Centreace McCrea (Photo courtesy of Najiva Timothee)

The last two years I have had many challenges with mentoring youth due to the pandemic. Mentors have been restricted from going into the schools due to COVID. School closures caused reduced access to student support and educational services. There was often low engagement due to transitioning from in-person to virtual due to mentees not having laptops for online mentoring sessions and sometimes because of family issues.

I now do weekly check-ins with my mentees using phone calls and/or text messages to ensure they are doing well. Many of the youth I work with have been exposed to instances of racial injustices that were happening one after the other throughout the U.S. last year. They are also having to learn to navigate through the daily challenges of living during a pandemic.

The Girls Dig Deeper Initiative is going to expand its reach to provide mentoring and coaching services to incarcerated youth in juvenile detention centers. It's been on my heart to help serve the youth there by offering guidance and support through mentoring. Mentoring has long been a staple of juvenile justice and violence prevention efforts. There are still many great opportunities for youth justice and reforms as well as the need to get rid of racial discrimination in the justice system.

Mentoring interventions add value to the life of the youth and provide them tools and resources to help them become productive citizens when they transition back to their communities.

Mentoring youth in corrective institutions will not only benefit the youth, but society as a whole when they are released. It is necessary our youth get the mentoring and educational opportunities while they are incarcerated so they have a chance to improve themselves before going back home.

I believe that youth doing time for nonviolent crimes and showing progress through learning and development should be looked at by their personal growth and not their original crimes.

Incarceration should not be the only solution to deal with the mistakes of our youth. We should find ways to help our youth so they can become better individuals and not return back to correctional facilities in the future. The racial inequities leading to the deaths and disproportionate numbers of incarcerated minority youth truly have taken an emotional toll on me over the last 4 years.

Out-of-school suspensions for minor behavior issues also serves as a great disservice to our youth. I believe everyone should be given the tools to help them succeed instead of just punishing them for their mistakes.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ”Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” I also believe that serving others is what life is all about. It is a rewarding feeling to serve both youth and adults to help them grow into leaders and be positive influences to others.” 

If you would like to contact Timothee about mentorship opportunities, please email her at  girlsddi@gmail.com.

The Girls Dig Deeper Initiative's Najiva Timothee teaches her mentees to dig deep to find their full potential (Photo courtesy of Najiva Timothee)
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