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Girl Child in the Promised Land En Espanol

he temptation to look away in Sonoma County is nearly irresistible. Gaze out any window and there is god's country; beckoning adventure, solitude, beauty, and the arts, as you wish. Turn to the people, and health and harmony is the fare.

Woe the minority girl who has troubles or needs in Sonoma County! Who will even see her?

And if by chance this girl comes into momentary view, bearing hurt and reminders of poverty and social ills, who is there for her who hasn't made a virtue of avoiding the stress? Can there be any doubt that it was repeated looking away that put 12 year old Georgia Moses on the streets in dangers' way? A looking away so reflexive that even when Georgia was found murdered on the side of the road, one local paper gave Georgia's murder a mere two paragraphs on page three, and another gave her a heaping dose of blame.

There was at least one person who, following Georgia's murder, decided then and there that minority girls would be seen and heard, and loved and helped. Jeannie Walker, an African American counselor, gathered up the teenage African American girls in her area and opened her home. For the last three and a half years since Georgia's death, the girls meet regularly at Jeannie's home, to share, support, grow, and to have, as the group is named, A Time to Smile. Now Jeannie has teamed up with Latina counselor, Jennie Nestor, to provide the same for Latina girls.

Jennie Corella-Nestor
Bilingual Counselor for Girls

f you know of Latina girls between 12 and 18 years-old who need a bilingual support group to call their own, call Jennie Nestor today! The contact number above is Jennie's work number at Social Advocates for Youth. But the girls' group is held under the auspices of A Time to Smile. And if one group fills to capacity, says Jennie, then we'll form another.

There was a time when Jennie Nestor was sorely in need of a group like this herself. Jennie was the sixth child of California migrant workers. The family moved with the crops, from El Centro to Salinas and back again. On Jennie's very first day of school she tried to comfort an English-speaking classmate who was crying. Somehow Jennie's Spanish words made the girl cry even more. The teacher began yelling at Jennie in English. Jennie began crying inconsolably, and Jennie's big sister had to come get Jennie from class and take her home.

It probably all could have been smoothed out, if there had been some effort by the school to help the migrant worker kids. Or if there had been a group where the Latino kids were supported. Instead, things went from bad to worse.

ennie's best friends were migrant worker kids too. One after the other, they would disappear scattershot around the country as their families took off to work another crop. When her own family would move, Jennie would find herself plucked from one school and dropped into another. All the kids would be on a different page of a different book, and teachers didn't reach out. Jennie grew isolated, hurt, and then she rebelled.

"I stopped putting energy into it," says Jennie. "I rebelled and didn't go to school. I got into drugs and alcohol and didn't care about myself." The insight Jennie nurtured regarding her own youth grew into a dedication to reach deep into other youngsters' lives and guide and nurture them through.

Eight years ago, Sonoma County Social Advocates for Youth saw this special passion and intelligence in Jennie despite her lack of formal education. They hired her as the agency's youth gang outreach worker. Jennie is grateful to Social Advocates for Youth for the extensive education and training they have provided her with since. Today, as the agency's bilingual counselor, Jennie sees individual youngsters and their families from referrals throughout the county.

hen asked what will mark success for the bilingual girl's group she's formed with A Time to Smile, Jennie has no hesitation. " Success is when the girls consider it their group. When they blossom. When the girls learn another girl isn't their enemy. When a girl can reflect in another girl's story."

A Time to Smile has persevered in helping minority girls in Sonoma County for three and a half years on near starvation funds. Please contact founder and help her meet the needs.
Jeannie Walker
523-9515 ext 2

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Copyright © Marie De Santis,
Women's Justice Center,

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