You probably know at least one girl. I do too. 

One girl can…be Mikaya. Her brother was shot to death on a Milwaukee street this summer. 

One girl can…be Sasha, whose father has been in and out of jail most of her life. Her mother has few job skills. It’s not uncommon for the power to be cut off at their home or for the refrigerator to be empty. 

One girl can…be Ebonie. She gets bullied at a time when she is trying to be herself. She stands in front of the bathroom mirror, pointing out her flaws. She has so much to look forward to, but she’s blinded by the tears that show in her eyes. She is fourteen years old. She is me. I am her. 

My name is Ebonie. Mikaya, and Sasha are my PEARLS sisters. We don’t need statistics to tell us what life is like in many of our neighborhoods or the challenges we face within. We are not statistics. I am not a statistic. In my three years with PEARLS I found that I am one girl who can, amidst the adversity faced in my city, learn to love myself, become confident, and realize that I am beautiful. 

When I was young, I remember commercials where the women looked so happy and comfortable in their skin. But when I looked in the mirror, the sight of me was just overwhelming; it made me very angry. I felt that I had nothing to love about myself. I turned away from everybody. I started to take my anger out on myself and my family. I was becoming someone that I didn't want to be.

During one PEARLS group activity, I remember staring at the blank page in my journal when we were asked “What makes me beautiful?” I couldn't even look at my reflection in a mirror-how could I put pen to paper and write an answer to this? I felt heartbroken. But as I came back group after group, my program coordinator and PEARLS sisters helped build me up until I could believe for myself that beauty radiates from within and I do have so much to look forward to. 

Through my three years as a PEARLS girl, I learned to be truly comfortable in my own skin. I am no longer a girl who is afraid to show the world who she is, but now am a proud PEARLS Alumna and freshman at Mount Mary University and know I’m beautiful and no longer have to hide it.

One girl can…learn to love herself and her beauty that lies within. 

One girl can…be confident that no matter where she lives or the circumstances surrounding her; she can step into her own truth. She can be resilient through tragedy and celebration. 

I need to believe this. Mikaya and Sasha need to believe this. Our city needs to believe in the power of investing in strong, confident, and empowered women. 

Practicing my PEARLS attributes of “Leadership” and “Support”, I ask that you please consider making a gift PEARLS to continue the programming that has been so transformational to me and thousands of other girls in Milwaukee. 
Thank you for letting me share my story and I hope you recognize the beauty that lives within you too,

Ebonie Beal – PEARLS Alumna & Freshman, Mount Mary University