By Stephanie Scott
Photos By Deniece Griffin
In their Spring 2017 semester at Georgia State, Political Science major Sherifa Holder (B.A. ’18), Nursing major Olivia Bernard (B.S. ’19), Early Childhood Education major Mercedes Arroyo (B.S.E. ’18), and Social Entrepreneurship major Jeanine McDonald (B.I.S. ’19) started brainstorming ideas for an outreach and mentorship program to help young girls from their Henry County High School. By 2018, the four best friends established their organization as HighlighHER and today they now have over 50 mentors and partnerships with several Henry County high schools.
“When we were in high school, we didn’t have mentors to help us make decisions about college, so it was hard for us to transition,” said Sherifa Holder, who is the Events Coordinator for HighlightHER.
HighlightHER connects college mentors, called “Ladies”, with high school girls from the Metro Atlanta area, particularly Henry County where the co-founders went to school.
“Our Ladies reach out to the high school girls and create a sisterhood to instill tips on academic, career, and personal success. We match our girls with Ladies who can cater to their specific academic and career needs,” said Olivia Bernard, the Administrator of the organization.
“We want to keep the age margin between the mentees and mentors small so that they can relate well to each other and provide the mentees with relevant advice,” said HighlightHER’s Treasurer, Mercedes Arroyo.
In addition to college prep and academic help, HighlightHER focuses on facilitating community service as well as mental health support and resources for their mentees.
“It was important for us to have a holistic approach to our organization. We often see outreach program focus on one thing, like college prep. We want our girls to be well rounded in all aspects of their lives,” said Bernard.
HighlightHER’s Instagram, run by Jeanine McDonald, serves as a platform to share positive and motivational content with their members. Their themed posts like #MotivateHERMonday, #TopicTuesday and #HighlightHERFriday keep their mentees and mentors engaged and connected throughout the week.
HighlightHER plans to expand their organization to reach other high schools in the Metro Atlanta area beyond Henry County. Since they will be graduating from Georgia State very soon, they are grooming their members to carry on the sisterhood and expand the organization.
Bernard gives the advice to aspiring entrepreneurs to “Start now, and start small. Invest in yourself and be resourceful,” she said.
Find out more about how you can donate and get involved with HighlightHER at their website: https://www.highlighther.org