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D.I.V.A.S. Program Focuses on Reading Comprehension for Black Girls

D.I.V.A.S. Program Focuses on Reading Comprehension for Black Girls

At first glance, Tinesha Croom and Kertisha Dixon appear to be your average college students. But Croom, 18, and Dixon, 19, who have been friends since middle school, wanted to do something more than just go to the beach this summer.

So they created and are leading a program called D.I.V.A.S. — Dynamic, Innovative, Visionary, African-American Sisters — to mentor Black girls from Richland School District 1.

The program focuses on developing reading comprehension skills for girls ages 6-12.

“We wanted to give back to the community, so we wondered how hard it would be to start a program,” Croom says.

Croom, who is a rising sophomore at Winthrop University in Rock Hill; and Dixon, who is a rising sophomore at Howard University in Washington, D.C., conceived the program during one of their frequent phone calls to each other during college.

They worked from October until May to set up the program and decided to focus on lower-income areas and make the program free. They went to different businesses asking for donations without much luck.

“Since we weren’t an accredited organization, it was hard,” Croom says.
There were plenty of times when they got discouraged.

“We just kept our heads together,” Croom says. “We didn’t want to disappoint the kids who had already signed up with the program. And our parents supported us.”

Dixon’s parents were not surprised when she wanted to start the program.

“I was very active in high school, so it was not a big surprise,” she says. “Individually, I think we spent 20 hours a month. We went to different schools to meet the kids during our spring break.”

They finally received a $500 grant from South Carolina Federal Credit Union. Kristy dosReis, public relations manager, says she was impressed when she met the girls.

“I thought they were so intelligent,” she says. “They are reaching out to students and trying to improve the future.”

The girls still had to pay for some expenses out of their own pockets.
“I was basically using tuition money,” Croom says. “I ended up having to buy supplies. We also provide them lunch.”

During the program, which was held each Saturday from June 11 through July 30, Croom and Dixon led activities such as tongue twisters. They also invited guest speakers, ranging from dentists to college representatives.

“We thought it would be good to have someone in the professional world come and reveal what they did to get to that point,” Croom says.
The two friends returned to their respective universities in August, but they are looking into other ventures for next summer, possibly in the form of internships. They plan to hand D.I.V.A.S. over to someone else, but have no intentions of forgetting about the young girls they helped this summer.

“We plan to come home and do school visits,” Croom says. “We’ll stay involved with the parents and be mentors.”

— Associated Press

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