Saving Our Sisters returns to the Coast Coliseum - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Saving Our Sisters returns to the Coast Coliseum

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Saving Our Sisters summit (S.O.S) is coming back to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum Saturday, May 15.   Now, in its third year, S.O.S was organized as a call to action to address Mississippi's high teen pregnancy rate.  Local radio station WJZD 94.5 is the organizing sponsor and the force behind getting the event started.  

Ultimately, organizers hope to inform girls on how to make smarter choices in every aspect of their lives, especially when it comes to sex, through a series of informative and fun sessions. The day-long event is free and for girls ages 9 and up.  The summit will also include a step show and special guests, Grammy-nominated soul singer Angie Stone and Marques Houston.    

The sessions will cover issues like self-esteem, etiquette and planning for the future.  The workshops are designed to keep the girls engaged and having fun.  In one of the sessions, organizers will put on fashion show to help girls learn how to dress and carry themselves appropriately. 

The girls also attend workshops on how to make better choices when it comes to their health. In keeping with the event's goal to combat teen pregnancy, the girls learn about abstinence and safe sex.

But, it's not just for the girls. S.O.S has sessions for the women in the community as well.  The summit takes a generational approach to helping young girls thrive.  The women will attend sessions covering topics like how to talk to young girls about sex, "sexting," as well as other issues affecting young girls today. 

In the morning, the women will spend time focusing on themselves through a workshop called, "Healing the Whole Woman."  It aims to address and heal some of the mental, emotional and spiritual barriers keeping women back from being productive in their lives.  

But the work to teach girls what they need to know to become successful women goes well beyond the one-day event.  A program called the Gulf Coast Rites of Passage, which will hold sessions at the summit, seeks to do just that.  It strives to mold young girls through mentorship and education for the mind, body and spirit.

Sandra Edwards oversees the program and she's working to help young girls build a foundation for more fruitful and purposeful lives.  She's established the new Gulf Coast Rites of Passage Cultural Arts Center, the home of the Gulf Coast Rites of Passage Program.  

"The rites of passage focuses on the total girl, the moral, the psychological, the spirit.  All those elements help them discover who they truly are and who God created them to be in the first place," Edwards said.

The girls complete eight rites of passage or steps in their transition from childhood to young womanhood.

One of the steps includes challenges that focus on self-love, personal health and finance and career development among other areas.  Dance also plays a big part in the program, as the girls use movement to express what they're learning.

Kyrstyn Pharr and her sister Devin went through the program together in 2007. 

"It was really fun growing together, but in ourselves first.  We built up our goals and what we want to do and how we want to live our lives," Pharr said.

The girls celebrate the completion of their six week program in what's called a "crossover" ceremony.  It's a celebration where the community is invited to come out and honor what the girls have achieved.   

 "It was a major part of my life.  They say it takes a village to raise a child and I know...I know I had that village.  And I thank God for Ms. Sandra because she has been a major part of my life," Dorsey said.

In the program, Edwards is considered an elder and she's flanked with a group of elders who mentor the girls.

"Now the elders are a group of professional women who have decided we are determined to save our children through our time and through our talent.  We've decided that even though they're not our natural children we are still responsible to make sure they can become successful in life," Edwards said.

Edwards sees how that belief has come full circle. Program graduates like Shahuna have returned from college to give back and help the next generation of girls going through the program.  

"One of the mantras we use in this program is am I my sister's keeper.  One of the quotes that resonate with me, Edwards says, is that of Margaret Meade and it says, ‘never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world...indeed it's the only thing that ever has."

The Gulf Coast Rites of Passage Cultural Arts Center is located off 31st Street in Gulfport.  Edwards said she could still use more help and donations to get started at her new location.  If you'd like to help or get more information on how to sign up, you can call Sandra Edwards at 228-547-4684. 

The Saving Our Sisters summit is a free event and is set this for Saturday, May 15, at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi. Registration starts at 8 and the event is scheduled to last until about 4:00 p.m. This year, the IP casino stepped in as one of the primary co-sponsors for the event.   

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