Black History Month Special : Mentor Seeks to Help Girls Through Interpretive Dance

By: Deborah Tuff Email
By: Deborah Tuff Email

"Which statement summarizes the idea behind amendment's 4 through 8?" A group of teenage girls help their house sister study for her GED, but sitting is not something they're accustomed to.

After the study session, they begin their chores.

These everyday chores involve cleaning the bathroom, making their bed, vacuuming, sweeping and cooking.

The girls are in the only girls’ home of its kind in the state of Alabama.

It’s a home that gives the girls attention, not puts them in detention.

The woman behind it all is Ethel Smith. "There's a need for our young girls to be taught in a positive way. That's what makes me come back,” she says.

A mother of two adult children, Smith's been with the girls’ home for six years.

Prior to her work there, she worked with special needs children, which is why Ethel says her role as house mother had to be a divine gift, a gift the girls are thankful for.

"She means the world to me and she's given me an opportunity to a better life," says Dessira, one of 10 residents in the house.

"She has a lot of sympathy for me that most people don't have. She takes the time out to care for and deal with the problems that most people wouldn't care to deal with," adds another resident, Jelisa.

But the girls say what makes it even more special is Smith opened a new door for them to express themselves.

Through this expression, they've been able to vent emotional fears brought on by years of abuse and neglect and travel the nation telling people about it.

The movement is called Expressive Dance.

"It relieves pain off of me that I've had in the past," says house resident Kimberly, before she suits up in her long, white flowing dance apparel.

As the day moves on, the girls can smile again.

One of them wants to become a veterinarian, another you girl an astrologer, and yet another wants to become a fashion consultant.

All thanks to a woman who had a gift to make them believe in themselves.

Smith implemented dance five years ago.

The home is for girls ages 11 to 18 and is a program through the Southeast Alabama Youth Services Attention Home.


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