Yolanda Jiorn, 18, struggled to share her voice with the world because she was afraid to speak in public. But, when she joined Honey Shine, a Miami mentoring program founded by Tracy Wilson Mourning, in the 5th grade, she found her voice and confidence.
“Seeing all the opportunities it offered me, I wish I could still have that,” she said. “Now as a counselor I see it as an opportunity to show it to the other girls who are in the program now and show them to appreciate it and not take it for granted.”
When Mourning, a designer, broadcast journalist, soon to be published author, and wife of former NBA player Alonzo Mourning moved back to her hometown in South Miami, she felt that addressing these needs would be part of her life journey.
“God placed it on my heart that I was supposed to do something with Honey Shine,” Mourning said. “And I listened, but didn’t act on it for many years. And then that voice wouldn’t be quiet.”
Honey Shine was established by Mourning in 2002 to help instill values such as building community, responsibility and faith to underprivileged girls between the ages of 8 to 18. Edlyn Griffith, director of programs at Honey Shine, said that their overall goal is to “help enhance the lives of young girls; body, mind and spirit.”
“Our main focus is educational enrichment as well as making sure that they are provided with the tools that help them to make better choices in their lives,” said Griffith. “Then they can grow up to be self-sufficient young women.”
Research conducted by the American Psychological Association has shown that underprivileged children and teens are at a greater risk for poor academic achievement, dropping out of school and behavioral and emotional problems.
Honey Shine consists of bi-monthly workshops, field trips and an annual six-week day camp during the summer. All of these programs are geared towards making an impact on the new generation of girls they call “Honey Bugs.” The workshops provided to participants cover subjects from yoga, fitness, and self-defense classes, to financial literacy, robotics, music and therapy sessions.
Field trips to the beach, museums, and even colleges aim to expose the girls to the world around them.“That’s our goal of Honey Shine, to show our Honey Bugs that the world is theirs and they belong,” Mourning said. “I want our girls to know that they are worthy of learning and of quality education and opportunities.”
The journey of a Honey Bug does not end when they reach 18 years of age. Griffith said a lot of the girls will visit during their breaks from college. Former Honey Bug, Isis Graham, 18, says that the program has changed her life. “When I was younger, I had a lot of self-esteem issues,” Graham, a current camp counselor, said. “But with Honey Shine, I have grown so much. People are like ‘You are so different,’ but it’s really because of Honey Shine.”
Ashley Sturrup, 20, also a camp counselor, has been a member of Honey Shine since its founding year. “It helped me grow as a person,” Sturrup said. “It helped me to be independent. It taught me how to be a woman. It gave me confidence.”
During Honey Shine’s first year only 50 girls participated, but now approximately 400 girls have gone through the program, and more than 180 girls participate in the summer camp alone each year. Currently, there is a waiting list for the girls to get in.
With these various programs available, Griffith notes that Mourning’s vision has been personified in the girls who participate. Eleven years later, Honey Shine continues to be an environment where young girls and women are encouraged to practice sisterhood, mentoring and journaling. These practices are near and dear to Mourning’s heart, and are the reason that she is heavily involved with the program.