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Queens of Empowering the Youth leads through mentorship

EDGARD —LaToya Washington started from the bottom and built her own path to success. She remembers how it felt to fall down the wrong path, and she knows mentorship and support would have made all the difference during that critical time of her life.

Washington’s new organization, Queens of Empowering the Youth, introduces female-led mentorship to the West Bank of St. John the Baptist Parish.

From teaching job seeking skills to lending a listening ear in one-on-one sessions, Washington will show young women that their potential in this world is limitless. She is hopeful this movement will create strong community solutions.

“I came up with this organization because I love helping people. I see a lot of young women heading the wrong way,” Washington said. “I thought we could come together as a community and try to bring out the best in them and make sure that they do better than us. If I could help change one person’s life, I would be honored.”

Washington dropped out of West St. John High School in 2006 after becoming pregnant with her first child at age 16. She obtained her GED in 2010 and went on to earn a safety technician certification in 2016. In 2018, she received an associate’s degree in process technology and celebrated with a “second chance” prom to experience a milestone she missed as a teenager.

Now, she is starting a petroleum engineering program at Nicholls State University. While pursuing her education in the STEM field, she also followed her dreams of working as a cosmetologist.

“I look at these young girls, and I once was them. I have teamed up with a few women to give back to the community and help the youth figure out where they want to go in life,” Washington said. “It’s really to help the kids be successful, so they know you don’t have to settle for less. Where you come from doesn’t make you who you are.”

Queens of Empowering the Youth will visit local schools to share uplifting messages. One-on-one mentorship will be available with safety precautions in place due to COVID-19.

In addition to volunteering at the school level, Washington said the ladies behind Queens of Empowering the Youth will have a positive presence in the community.

The first community event will be a school supply giveaway on the West Bank of St. John the Baptist Parish on Saturday, Aug. 29. The time and location are still being determined. The event will be held as a drive thru parade in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

The leaders of Queens Empowering the Youth include Eve Washington (back row, far left) LaToya Washington (sitting) and Kevia Bartley (back row, right). The ladies are pictured with their children, representing the impact they want to have on the youth of the community. Photo credit: Photography by RFL

Washington said the giveaway will be geared toward children in grades K-7 and include school essentials such as backpacks, folders, notebooks, pencils and art supplies.

LaToya Washington’s older sister, Eve Washington, is one of the Queens ready to make a difference through the new nonprofit organization.

Eve has watched her sister persevere through difficult circumstances. It makes her proud to see Washington striving for greatness, knowing how far she has come.

“She’s unstoppable. She’s got so much fight in her and her ideas are big enough to where others believe in it, too,” Eve said. “We believe in her because we know that she’s going to achieve it. That’s why I, as an older sister, always try to get involved with whatever ideas she has.”

Eve said female-led mentorship is much needed in the Edgard community. Growing up in such a small town with limited resources, it can be difficult for young people to see the big picture of what the future can hold.

“The generation that’s coming up right now needs something to look forward to. It’s easy in a small town to fall in with the wrong crowd and get into trouble,” Eve said. “There are people out there who don’t know how to drive a car. People need to know how to fill out applications. There is more out there that you can advance yourself to do. We need more doctors, lawyers, educators.”

Washington said every young person has a gift to share with the world, and she wants to help bring that to the forefront.

For more information about Queens of Empowering the Youth, mentorship opportunities and the upcoming school supply drive, please contact Toya Wash through Facebook.