By Janelle Burrell

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — At Eyewitness News, we love highlighting people making a difference in our communities. For nearly four decades, Elleanor Jean Hendley has made it her mission to encourage and uplift young women, molding them into girls with goals, and empowering thousands along the way.

“When I was growing up, there were no women who I saw who looked like me, in television news,” Hendley said. 

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“And you have to see it first, then believe that you can achieve it,” she added.

Hendley is a face familiar to Eyewitness News viewers. 

Former Eyewitness News Reporter, Host Eleanor Jean Hendley Has Been Uplifting Girls Of Color Through Teenshop For Nearly 4 Decades

Hendley started at KYW in 1980 and it was during that time, as an Emmy award-winning reporter and host, she was inspired to take action to fill what she saw as a void.

“I decided that I would use my platform to provide exposure to girls of color so they could dream big and without limitation. And that is essentially the foundation for the Teenshop program,” Hendley said.

In 1985, she started Teenshop as an extracurricular organization for local teen girls.

Hendley said when she looks back at her first meeting in 1985, she’s amazed by all of it.

Former Eyewitness News Reporter, Host Eleanor Jean Hendley Has Been Uplifting Girls Of Color Through Teenshop For Nearly 4 Decades

“The program is all about exposure and empowerment. So we have a very diverse curriculum that includes health and fitness, arts and culture, we have college initiatives,” Hendley said. “Our program, each girl visits two college campuses a year, and we’re proud that as a result of that kind of exposure, we have 100% college acceptance.”

The program meets on Saturday mornings during the school year. The weekend CBS3 visited, the theme was “wellness.” A yoga instructor, a psychotherapist, and a dietitian-nutritionist stopped by during the visit.

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 “We’re preparing ourselves for excellence,” Alisha Holland, a Teenshop member, said. “We’re preparing ourselves for college, growing up, the real world.” 

Thirty-six years later, Teenshop has more than 3,000 alumnae, and three chapters, in three states.

“I just really like that it feels like a family here,” Kimora Taylor, a Teenshop member, said. “And I especially like that with the family aspect, I also get that teaching aspect where they help me grow, in school, mentally and prepare me for the work world. 

Former Eyewitness News Reporter, Host Eleanor Jean Hendley Has Been Uplifting Girls Of Color Through Teenshop For Nearly 4 Decades

Celebrating each other’s accomplishments, along the way. 

“At its essence, it is a sisterhood,” Hendley said. “I’m not a mother in the sense that I’ve ever given birth, but to see these girls, all of whom in their own way have become my daughters just really grow, and as you say blossom, has been an incredible experience.”

“It’s simply about making a difference,” she added.

Hendley has helped those girls with goals go on to become successful women. Among the graduates are surgeons, lawyers, bank executives, teachers, principals, and the list goes on. 

All of them are so grateful to Hendley and her team at Teenshop, who have made an impact on all of their lives.

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Click here to learn more about Teenshop.

Janelle Burrell