By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia nonprofit held an empowerment conference Wednesday with the goal of giving mentors the tools they need to help young African-American girls.

“If you need some help…go to a therapist!”

Therapy, putting one’s self first, learning individual needs was just some of the advice given by Mischa Toland at the Empowering the Voice and Presence of Young Black Girls and Women conference at Seer Interactive. Toland, CEO of Greatness NOW is a teacher, author and leader who spent 27 years working in human services.

“Our message is that black girls matter,” she says, “not in the same way as Black Lives Matter — but we want them to understand that being excellent is a game changer. But in order to do that, they need mentors.”

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The event included around 75 black girls and mentors of backgrounds who spoke about how to better open the dialogue between the girls and their mentors.

“We have been doing a lot of work around mentoring young men of color, and everyone kept saying what about the girls,” says Abigail Ellis, executive director of the Mentoring Partnership & Resource Center. The group organized the event to link mentors with tools they need to connect with their mentees.

“We were looking for resources all over the place about how we do better and how we can help our mentors do better,” says Ellis, “so we wanted to start the conversation about how we can help our young women.”

Ellis says mentoring is not “one size fits all.” Mentors must accept their mentees for who they are and where they are. MPRC provides resources technology and more for mentors.

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“I didn’t want to work with them, but they came to me and said they wanted to participate,” says Octavia Blount, who reluctantly began mentoring black girls. She didn’t like the attitudes, but has since broken barriers and now, loves to show off her girls.

“I sit over there like a proud mom, it’s a really good feeling,” she says.

“I used to be very distant, but now, I am very on and active,” says Deja Charity, 18. She says having a mentor changed her as she learned life lessons.

“I’ve learned to just be myself and that I enjoy helping people,” says the future nurse.

Click here for more on the Mentoring Partnership & Resource Center.

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