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Real Simple: Giving Back to Girls

Our sister publication, Real Simple, has just published an excellent profile of seven women who donate ample amounts of time to helping others. One of those profiled: Jocelyn Allen of Farmington Hills, a 40-year-old single mother of one son, who heads up an organization called Divas 4 Life. Her story follows below, and you can click here to get the full piece.

Whether she's attending a Detroit Pistons game, strolling through a museum, or playing golf, Jocelyn is hard to miss, what with the 30 tween and teen girls she has in tow. Jocelyn, the vice president of public affairs for OnStar, heads up Divas4Life , an organization for girls between the ages of 8 and 18 that encourages them to become, in her words, “determined, inspired, victorious, and adventurous.”

The idea came to Jocelyn in 2002, while she was volunteering as youth director at St. John Evangelist Temple of Truth, in Detroit's beleaguered Northend community. A longtime member of the congregation, Jocelyn had witnessed parents struggling to provide the basics for their families. “Detroit's youth are the ones hardest hit by the problems that plague this city,” she notes. “I have been tremendously blessed, and I felt I could be a good role model for young girls.”

In 2003 Jocelyn started Divas4Life to provide her students with “access to mentors who look like them, have overcome the odds, and are giving back to their communities,” she says. Word spread through the neighborhood, and soon Jocelyn had dozens of girls eager to join.

From that point on, Jocelyn, with the help of her all-volunteer board, has arranged weekly field trips for her girls. One week they might go horseback riding; the next, they might attend a performance of La Bohème. Occasional etiquette lessons and money-management and college-prep courses are offered, as are lunches with successful African-American women. (The costs of Divas events are funded by board members or by donations from local companies.) “With everything we do, I want the girls to learn a lesson,” Jocelyn says. “I don't want them to sense any limits.”

Since Divas began, more than 75 girls have participated in the program (pictured here, nine current members). Many become high achievers; this year's group boasts honor students, violinists, and sports stars. Shyniece Hardwick, who joined Divas when she was 12, is one such success story. “After my mother left, I had no female to guide me,” says Shyniece, now 21, who was raised by her father. “Divas taught me what's right, what's wrong—and it's why I'm in college today.” Shyniece considers Divas a lifeline, so much so that she now works for Jocelyn as the group's first intern while completing her senior year at Eastern Michigan University.

No matter how busy Jocelyn is at work or with her son, Michael Davis Jr., 17, she says she never tires of running the organization. “It's rewarding to be there when the girls need someone to listen to them, to tell them they are worthy,” Jocelyn says. “I may not be able to save the whole world, but I can make an impact on these young women's lives.”

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