PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Nourishing words, positive affirmations: “I deserve to be successful. I deserve to be loved.”
That’s the motto behind Women of the Dream, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and empowering young girls to make healthy choices in every aspect of their lives.
“We all want our girls to come out of high school on time, with a diploma in their hand and with some goals in mind,” said founder Leslie Morris, or Miss Leslie, as the girls call her. Leslie is the founder of this Camden-based program that provides in-school mentoring.
“I have a curriculum that I work from,” Leslie said. “It focuses on the overarching theme, breaking the cycle of poverty.”
Leslie grew up under similar circumstances, but that never stopped her. She has two masters degrees and had a successful career in public health before retiring and creating this organization.
Women of the Dream has planted its roots in Camden, one of the poorest cities in the country.
Leslie said, “It’s a city just like any other in any poor neighborhood across the country where you have struggling mothers, trying to raise kids alone, with very little resources, and some are doing a phenomenal job.”
“But it’s a city where you see the need,” CBS3’s Chandler Lutz said.
“Absolutely, and can make a difference,” Leslie said.
Over the past four years Leslie has seen the difference. Women of the Dream is now operating in five schools.
Paris Mears, who is 14, said, “In Women of the Dream, I’m learning how to carry myself in a better way. I’m learning how to go about situations differently, how to sustain myself to become the beautiful young lady that I am, and how to act in the order that I should act.”
“What I find amazing and through the Dear Mommy letters is how many of our kids are walking around hurting every single day,” Leslie said.