Mentoring program makes debut in W-S

LEAD founder Joy Nelson-Thomas

Mentoring program makes debut in W-S
August 18
06:45 2016

Nonprofit program LEAD Girls NC looks to expand services to young girls in Forsyth County



Last weekend LEAD Girls NC (Leading Everyday, Accomplishing Dreams), a non-profit mentoring program for young girls, officially launched in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

Already serving girls in Guilford County, LEAD Girls NC is dedicated to providing the tools and resources that low-income or at-risk pre-teen girls must have to become productive adults and active leaders in their communities. According to founder Joy Nelson-Thomas, the program uses an evidence-based curriculum that encourages girls to achieve greatness academically, emotionally and creatively. The curriculum focuses on four core values: awareness, perspective, leadership and communication.

Although LEAD Girls is fairly new to the mentoring scene here in Winston-Salem, Nelson-Thomas has years of experience as a mentor and knows the responsibility that comes with it as well. While studying to obtain her bachelor’s degree at Salem College, Nelson-Thomas took the daughter of a family friend into her own home, without any assistance from the government, and raised her as her own.

Although she admits at times it was hard, Nelson-Thomas said after encouraging the teen to go to college, she knew she had found her calling.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” she said. “After raising a family friend for about seven years and seeing the hope I gave her, I realized that this was what I wanted to do.”

“I’m a strong believer that you can do anything if you have that support system and I wanted to create that support system.”

Nelson-Thomas said, after starting out slow, doors began to open up for LEAD Girls and she was able to form a partnership with Guilford County Schools.

Since making the connection last November, LEAD Girls has partnered with local organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to take girls off their waiting lists. The organization has also partnered with Community One Bank to open free bank accounts, and The Center for Smart Financial Choices, who will do a program with the girls.

The program focuses on girls who are considered at risk, the lessons provided through the mentoring program are tools young people from all backgrounds need to be successful.

“This program is all about creating leaders and making sure young kids have hope. Every kid is really at risk, even the ones who have access to money,” she said. “I feel like every girl can benefit from this program.”

While responsible for most of the legwork needed to turn the dream of LEAD Girls into reality, Nelson-Thomas said the organization’s board of directors plays a major role in the success of the program as well. Nelson-Thomas said the board of directors is filled with community activists who share the same passion for improving the community and the lives of young people.

“We are here to help girls through life and all the curves, turns and bumps they may encounter. We are here to mold them through it all.” she said.

Members of the board of directors include assistant professor and coordinator of criminal studies at Salem College, Dr. Kimya Dennis; Salem College professor Jane Gillan Marrow; Salem College Chair of the art history and design department, Dr. Rosa Otero; High Point University director of Corporate Foundation and Community Support, Renee Taylor; Salem College executive assistant for the vice president of institutional advancement, Melissa L. Wilson; and award-winning author Jennifer Acosta.

“This group of women is passionate about making an impact in this community,” continued Nelson-Thomas. “It’s so important to surround yourself with people who are honest and are willing to work.”

“As a grass roots organization, we need prominent women that believe in the mission, an that’s what we have at LEAD Girls NC.”

In the future, Nelson-Thomas will be looking to expand the program into other counties including Rockingham, Surry and other surrounding areas. During the meet-and-greet event held on Saturday, Aug. 13, inside the Emberson Fine Arts Center on the campus of Salem College, more than a dozen young girls registered for the upcoming fall semester.

As of Monday, Aug. 15, four spots were still available. For more information on LEAD Girls NC or to register for an upcoming session, visit

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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