Busta’s Person of the Week: She’s teaching girls how to lead

June 07
12:16 2018

By Busta Brown

“There was a little girl at the altar, and she was about 14 or 15. She was sharing a story about a friend that tried to commit suicide; she was in ICU [intensive care unit]. My bishop said ‘I have a feeling that this spirit is in here’ and then called up all the youth. I immediately told my husband it’s time for me to move.”

Joy Nelson Thomas did just that. She made a bold move.

“After hearing that young girl’s story, I knew I had to do something to make a difference in the lives of girls, so I walked away from my full-time career. I told my husband that starting an organization for girls is something that I’m passionate about and he said ‘Do it.’”

Joy did it. In 2015, she started LEAD (Learning Everyday Accomplishing Dreams) Girls of NC. The organization is dedicated to providing the tools and resources that low-income/at risk preteen girls must have to become productive citizens and active leaders in their communities.

Using an evidence-based curriculum, LEAD encourages and mentors girls to aspire and achieve greatness academically, emotionally and creatively. Thomas, the founder and executive director for LEAD Girls of NC, said, “LEAD Girls of NC is a one-of-a-kind nonprofit.” The organization has provided leadership\development to over 300 local girls ages 11 to15.

“Right now, our programs serve 160 girls each year. We hope to double our reach and expand our program to at least 300 girls each year within the next two years,” says Thomas.

She talked about her passion for so many local middle school girls facing bullying, increased social and peer pressure, struggles with difficult home lives and challenges at school.

“There is an incredible need for LEAD, and we have a tremendous desire to help every girl who needs us. Middle school girls are in such a transitional stage in their lives. Before they get into high school, they’re trying to figure out what is happening to them. Trying to figure out how to fit in and there are so many different challenges when you get to high school.”

Thomas was a victim of bullying during her elementary and middle school years. I asked bullied for what? Joy is absolutely gorgeous and very intelligent.

“Back in the day, I was heavier set. People talked about my face. In their eyes I wasn’t that cheerleader or that flag girl. That wasn’t me.”

I asked how she got through it. “I realized it’s OK to be true to who you are. And that you won’t be everyone’s choice and that’s OK. You have to love yourself.”

I asked what advice she would give mothers with daughters.

“I would say to mothers that it’s a process, so be the beacon of light when their daughters get discouraged. And to remember they were once young, so be careful not to judge their daughters or compare them to other girls. Remind them how special they are and help them develop the gifts they have.”

LEAD Girls of NC has an emphasis on entrepreneurship as well.

“When you look at social economic status on how to move people out of poverty, most households are run by single women, so we are empowering and preparing our girls to be future entrepreneurs.”

Thomas said the purpose for starting LEAD Girls was to equip girls to flourish and thrive.
What I loved most during our interview is how Joy’s husband looked at his wife with admiration and love.

Be sure to check out the rest of the interview on The Chronicle’s channel, Winstonsalem Chronicle.

Contact Joy Nelson Thomas at 500 W. 4th St., Suite 203B & C, Winston-Salem, NC 27101. Mailing address: P.O. Box 24022, Winston-Salem, NC 27114. Phone: (336) 517-6044.

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