HOUSTON – [By Willie Williams/ Texas Southern University]
They stepped out of the limousine one-by-one, already in the first stage of their transformations. It was the beginning of a night 11 young college women would remember for the rest of their lives as the Sister 2 Sistah dinner party kicked off Saturday evening.
The event was hosted by Sister 2 Sistah of Houston founders, Rebecca Briscoe of Houston Style Magazine, and Nakia Cooper of KPRC/Click2Houston.com and NewsWithAttitude.com.
Briscoe and Cooper decided to launch the initiative because they saw a need for mentorship for young college women.
"Sister 2 Sistah is an event that Nakia and I envisioned two years ago," said Briscoe. "My inspiration came from so many young college women that I encountered. They were either lost or hopeless about their future, relationships or careers."
Cooper was inspired to give back because of her own experiences with her mentor.
"I had an amazing mentor in college; my former Texas Southern University Professor Serbino Sandifer-Walker. She guided me through some really tough times in my life," Cooper said. "Afterward, when I entered the work force, she would send students to my previous job at KHOU 11 News, and I would often learn that some of the young girls were experiencing some of the challenges I faced, such as the struggles of single motherhood, domestic violence and other hard life experiences. I knew something had to be done."
When Briscoe and Cooper discovered they held the same passion to help the youth, they got busy with their planning and, wanting to do it in a different way, Sister 2 Sistah of Houston was born.
Briscoe assembled a dynamic group of professional women ready to share their stories with each of the young ladies. Cooper's focus was on the overall concept and mission of the evening. Together, they carefully selected the college women who would be chosen to attend and the sponsors who would help bring the program to life.
Sister 2 Sistah was initially designed to help 10 college women that evening, but on the final day, the powers that be sent an extra angel their way and an 11th girl was added. The selected girls, who were students from Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M University, had no idea what they were in store for. They were only told to wear white cocktail attire and to show up to one location. To their surprise, a stretch limousine picked them up and chauffeured them to Center Stage Events, an art gallery in Sugar Land, where the dinner was held.
The evening kicked off with an opening greeting from Dr. Docia Rudley, first lady of TSU.
"Each of you ladies here serves a unique purpose in life, you each have your own destiny," Rudley said as words of encouragement.
The dinner not only gave the ladies an opportunity to express themselves and to release without being judged, but it taught them the importance of financial literacy, entrepreneurship, healthy relationships and more.
"As women, we have the right to be in a relationship without changing who we are," said guest speaker Cameka Crawford, CCO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Crawford spoke to the ladies on the qualities of what makes a healthy relationship.
Other panelists included Jami Bertrand, founder of Elite Real Estate; Yolanda Lee, Proprietor, Outback Steakhouse Meyerland; Sherita Runnels, Financial Literacy Coach and Rochelle Walker, Registered Nurse. The speakers shared their own hardships endured as young adults and/or navigating the business world, each ending with a testimony of triumph. The theme of the evening was "You are not alone."
"I loved that every speaker served a vital purpose; whether it was about health, spirituality, finances, etc.," said Ke'tara Wells, Prairie View A&M student.
TSU senior Allison Flores was so overwhelmed with emotion, and spoke about the impact the dinner made on her life.
"The event was so eye-opening. It helped me to understand that I'm not alone," she said.
Flores added that it felt wonderful to be in a room filled with women who shared the common goal of being a better woman within.
"Together we celebrate our differences and together we'll win!" Cooper said as the night came to a close.
The dinner ended on a high note as Briscoe and Cooper pinned each student with a flower, symbolizing the beginning of a new journey.
"I strongly believe that Sister 2 Sistah formed a cohesive bond between speakers and students. We were able to laugh, cry and turn hurt into healing," Briscoe said.
The founders plan to take the initiative to other college campuses, helping as many young women in need.
A special thanks to business sponsors John Cruise of Small Business Today, Presidential Wear, A Wedding Car Limo Services, Dr. Morgan and Associates, Leslie's Furniture, Kim's Kreationz Bakery, Center Stage Events, Omega Psi Phi Rho Beta Chapter, Village Greenery and Flowers, The Link INC.(The Houston Chapter), Lorilicious Sweets, Corner Bakery, Jennifer Taylor of Mie'Shi Designs, and personal donors Stephanie Briscoe and Jerris Thompson. The event was catered by Chef James Turner of J.E.T. Catering.
The Dwight D. and Sheryl H. Howard Foundation was a benefactor of the event.
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