By Uilani A. Gray – Tower Staff Writer

The community of Cinnamongirl Inc., a nonprofit mentoring program, held a meet and greet on May 9 at the MetroCenter Auditorium in Oakland for new mentors, volunteers and additional young girls wanting to become Cinnamongirls.

The CGI is an Oakland-based program with a mission of empowering and inspiring young women (primarily African-American and Latina women) between the ages of 12-17.

Founder Renee Richard said, “We are all different spices, and this program is for all. I am more interested in what’s inside of these young ladies.

“Are they hungry enough to be the ones to truly make a difference in the world?” she added.

Richard likes to pull out those inner qualities that can set each young woman apart and enhance their true individualism.

In Oakland alone there are about 50,000 girls; 40 percent live below the poverty line, 26 percent experience abuse as young girls, more than 80 percent don’t graduate from college and less than 10 percent hold professional careers.

Cinnamongirl Inc. is the organization helping to bridge home life and helping create the reality that college life is possible regardless of your circumstances. Its main focus is to take a young woman and give her personalized mentoring in the areas of college preparation workshops, career development seminars and enrichment activities.

“Some of these young ladies have never been to a museum, a cultural event or seen a play at a theater,” Richard said.

CGI provides those types of opportunities for its “Cinnamongirls.”

“CGI empowers young women to take charge of their lives,” she said. “No two young ladies are the same and each needs to feel special and know that there is someone there to support them.”

Some educational goals of the Cinnamongirl Inc. program include: 100 percent of the girls will be college-bound after participating in the program; GPA’s will improve a full point after one year; 100 percent of all the girls take on a leadership role before graduating high school; and 75 percent of CGI graduates pursue a graduate degree.

“A Cinnamongirl is ambitious and intelligent, but often lacking the resources and support needed to make her dreams become a reality,” Richard said. (sic)

For the professional individual that looks to give back, CGI is an organization of choice. Each year, it recruits highly-qualified individuals from all professional fields to commit their time and resources to build a nurturing relationship with these young ladies.

“These mentors nurture bonds that foster a sustained sisterhood, which provides an environment in which the mentee can develop her unique strengths and talents,” Richard said. “The mentors care about these young ladies; they are cultivating lasting bonds that go beyond the program.”

Cinnamongirl Inc. is currently looking to match up ambitious girls with enthusiastic professional mentors. Anyone interested in getting more information on how to participate in the program or mentoring can contact (510) 531.4740 or email info@cinnamongirl.org.

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