SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) --- Young women growing up in immigrant families face challenges navigating life in American culture. Community Bridges, a non-profit organization, steps in to instill confidence in multicultural girls in Montgomery County Public Schools.
"I really wish, I was here since my freshmen year, because I would've been a much better person. They really helped me through a lot, financially and physically and morally."
Lucie Djomeni, a recent program graduate, has fond memories participating in all-girls club within Community Bridges. The organization serves female students in 11 Montgomery County Public Schools. Girls aged 9 to18 learn basic life skills. Elementary school girls work toward creating healthy friendships. Middle school students get help exploring their identity. Meanwhile, high school students examine their future college or career prospects.
The organization serves to help multicultural female students acclimate to their new life, according to Cynthia James, the Executive Director.
"There was a high need for girls just to have a safe space to discus things that are going on at school or home or in the community. So, teaching them about healthy relationships [as well as] helping them to retain their culture. [We help] them to understand it's ok to be who you are, it's ok to maintain your cultural identity, but at the same time, learning how to acclimate themselves to society so they can shift their trajectory of life," James explained.
Ten years ago Djomeni and her family came to the area from Cameroon. As a senior at Montgomery Blair High School, she would attend the all-girls after-school club, Glow. Community Bridges offers the club as a means to connect girls with multicultural backgrounds.
"It was really hard adjusting. Clubs like this...they let you know that you're not alone, because they too come from other places, and they also speak other languages," Djomeni explained.
The meetings would open with the girls sharing their feelings. The bonds between the students build their confidence. Djomeni said she has learned to be more patient with friends and improved her leadership skills.
Community Bridges also prepares girls for the college or job application process. These experiences help fill-in-the-gap that students face because of cultural or financial barriers.
"So what we try to do is help them understand the idea of overcoming these barriers because they're going to exist, whether you actually have wealth or not," said James.
"Barriers happen through your life. How do you manage through them? What are your networks, what are your resources. How do you build your own social capital in order to advance yourself." James continued.
Through Community Bridges, Djomeni earned a $1,000 college scholarship from a writing contest. She looks forward to her future as a freshman at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.
"I plan on studying biology because I always wanted to be a pediatrician."
NOTE: Gannett Foundation has given a grant to Community Bridges.
Produced by: Elizabeth Jia
WUSA9 & WUSA9.com