Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)
The members of the Ladies of Distinction (LOD) club from Graham Park Middle School visited Bowie State University in Maryland earlier this year. On their agenda: a meeting with Bowie State’s first female president, half-time participation on the court at the college’s basketball game, a campus tour, exposure to its programs and degree options, and a visit to the university’s newest state of the art research facility.
LOD club members exemplify impressive character and integrity. And opportunities are what it’s all about for them. “By promoting safe, responsible, and healthy behavior, our young ladies are taught to be on their best behavior and are given the tools needed to ensure their success,” says club sponsor Cheryl Mills, Graham Park’s seventh-grade lead science teacher.
The LOD club meets twice monthly after school and every third Saturday during the school year. Open to all young ladies from sixth through eighth grade, the club promotes the social, emotional, mental, and educational growth of its young members. LOD currently has 55 members, but hundreds of girls from all nationalities have enjoyed the program and benefitted from the lessons and activities developed by Mills over its 10-year history.
Workshops on leadership, financial literacy, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), cultural awareness, and mental and physical health put these young ladies in front of women in leadership positions. At meetings, they take part in discussions on etiquette, and get lessons on high school and college preparation. This year’s list of offsite visits includes the Youth Summit and Technology Expo at Northern Virginia Community College and the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) STEM Conference (hosted by Lockheed Martin and other organizations) held in Washington, D.C.
“Due to our great participation in the Youth Summit held at NOVA, BEYA took notice and offered to pay for charter buses for us to attend their STEM conference,” said Mills. “I am very proud of my young ladies!”
The LOD will wrap this year’s accomplishments by hosting a Saturday career day with professionals from a variety of career fields who will share their experience with LOD members; a fitness day to incorporate healthy practices in exercise and nutrition; and, through sponsorship from the Prince William Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, participation at the Sisterhood Scholarship Brunch, held in Washington, D.C. LOD participants will be the youngest attendees and have a chance to meet and hear from women leaders and high-achieving scholarship recipients.
Attendance at an end-of-year banquet, only earned through successful demonstration of club lessons, closes their busy schedule this school year.