North Carolina mother Liz Liles is making it her life’s mission to help young girls in her community.
Liles told The Daily Reflector she was adopted as a child and struggled during her youth with questions about why her birth mother gave her up, an insecurity that had a strong impact on her life and ultimately compelled her to reach out to young girls questioning their own worth.
“A lot of that deep-rooted insecurity stays with you, and it really begins to shape the way that you see the world,” she said. “Unless you really heal from those wounds, they just go with you.”
That realization became especially clear when Liles, a mother of two boys, moved back to North Carolina after a failed marriage. She accepted a job at The Salvation Army that put her in regular contact with young girls facing serious life traumas, including one girl who was gang raped, and another who fears for her life and sleeps with a knife under her pillow.
“That really opened my eyes to the needs that are here,” Liles said. “We don’t realize the depth of the need that’s in our own backyard.”
Especially when children feel abandoned by their parents, deep psychological deficits persist. Research shows the heightened importance here of adult examples, encouragement, and mentorship. Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture state that it is “far more poignant and influential” than merely classroom instruction (The Content of Their Character, p. 285).
The situation convinced Liles to create the nonprofit Daughters of Worth in 2015. With the help of volunteers, Liles created GLAM (Girls Living A Mission) groups at area elementary schools to mentor young girls. The GLAM Girls, which have steadily grown from about a dozen to roughly 90 girls, take field trips together and work to help groups like the Community Crossroads Center, a Greenville homeless shelter.
“We try to give them experiences they may not have had outside the group,” volunteer Alyssa Hardee said.
“I guess my experience of being a school counselor, seeing what some girls are up against, I just see so many of them struggling with not having positive interactions or role models,” she said. “I just thought it was really important to be someone who could make a difference.”
In more recent years, Liles has expanded the program to offer “Notes of Hope” for first- and second-grade girls to offer regular, positive affirmations, as well as “Grace Gifts,” which offers lessons about financial management and philanthropy. In total, the Daughters of Worth programs have reached about 300 girls.
Kelli Joyner, a counselor at H.B. Sugg Elementary, said many girls at her school have received the “Notes of Hope,” and it’s obvious Daughters of Worth is making a big impact.
“They tell me, ‘I have my other ones pinned up in my room,’” she said. “It means a lot to these girls.”
When teachers and principals think about how to motivate students who have suffered setbacks and adversity in their lives, there are lesson plans at the UK’s the Jubilee Centre. These lessons plans focus on flourishing from the margins and can be found here.