Jaylah has big dreams for a 13-year-old.  If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she’ll answer without skipping a beat: She wants to own a five-star restaurant that serves all varieties of food, so everyone can order a meal they enjoy. After she graduates high school, she hopes to attend the Culinary Institute in New York City. Jaylah says she’d like her restaurant to be in London or New York, before adding, “or whatever city Beyonce lives in.” She is confident when she talks about her dreams and you can sense the strong community of support that has helped her become that way.

While Jaylah is busy planning her future, she is also very involved in her school. She has a competitive spirit, and her favorite sport is volleyball. She loves to play by the net, where she can use her height to block and spike the ball. She also takes pride in her artwork. As we walk through the school hallways, she points out different art work she helped create, explaining which parts took the longest. One of her most prized possessions is her Ambassador Jacket, which she received for being a Student Ambassador. The responsibilities of the position help her set a positive example for other students, “Being an Ambassador at school, I have a reason to be a good student who people can look up to.” Jaylah isn’t only setting a good example for other students, she also wants to be a role model for her six-year-old sister, Jersey.

It is easy to see the ways that Jersey looks up to Jaylah. Jersey wears a headband, just like Jaylah.  When Jaylah begins talking about her volleyball games, Jersey is quick to say that she loves playing volleyball, too. Jersey poses for photographs the same way that Jaylah does, hamming it up for the camera and changing to a different pose after each “click.” Jaylah explains that she teaches Jersey her poses in front of the mirror. Both sisters make sure to give each shot their approval. When they take photographs together, they are quick to throw their arms around each other lovingly. The community of support that has helped Jaylah is only going to support Jersey even more, as Jersey not only has an example of female strength in her Mother, but also Jaylah to look up to as she grows.

This past summer, Jaylah was a student in our Summer Session of Beyond School. Now she’s beginning eighth grade before she goes to a new high school next year. When Jaylah came back for her last year in middle school, her teacher, Sister Barbara, noticed a difference right away: “She became more enthusiastic about school.” Her mom saw a change in Jaylah, too. “She came home excited about school. She has a new outlook.”

During her time with us this past summer, Jaylah experienced a 7 month reading growth in just 8 weeks.

“I liked when we started doing the reading and math fast, I didn’t know I could read that well,” Jaylah explained to us. Jaylah was able to discover something about herself this summer that is incredibly important for young women to know: When you work hard and believe in yourself, the possibilities of what you can achieve are endless.

Jaylah is already looking forward to high school. Even though it is only October, she asks her Mom when they can go shopping for a graduation dress.

Upon being asked if she is nervous for high school, Jaylah simply responds, “I’m so excited.”