My name is Toneka and I am a proud PEARLS Alumna.

Growing up, I had no idea what my future held and I felt completely lost. I had low self-esteem and there were many harmful, but enticing options, for my future. PEARLS offered a new door that forever changed who I was and shaped who I am today.

At PEARLS, I learned:

  • I can’t love anyone, if I can’t love myself.

  • I can’t know my true worth, if I didn’t take the time to get to know myself.

  • Girls act out because they feel unseen, unheard and are crying out for help.

  • You don’t need to act out, PEARLS sees you, and will be there for you.

During my senior year of high school, PEARLS brought us to the Milwaukee Fire Department Headquarters. There I realized I wanted to be a firefighter, but I had no clue what the steps were to get there. PEARLS helped me figure out the necessary steps and put them into action. They helped me stay on track for deadlines, physical trainings and meetings. They made me push myself and prove to myself that my dream is possible and I am worthy of reaching my dream.

At PEARLS there is a large focus on setting goals. I had always reached a goal I set while in PEARLS, until I was rejected to be a firefighter in Milwaukee. I felt defeated, alone and afraid for my future.


Even though I had given up on myself, PEARLS wouldn’t let me give up.
They told me, “This is your dream and you do not get to give up. Maybe it isn’t the right time or the right place but you have the strength within you to reach whatever it is you want. Try again and apply next year.”

I didn’t give up. I am now, at the age of 21, a firefighter in Georgia, living out my dream of being there for people when they are most afraid, most defeated and feel the most alone. I have an impact on someone’s life everyday.

I am a Shero.

You can be a Shero too. One of the definitions for a Shero is anyone who is a supporter of girls and women. Who better to help girls rise above adversity, poverty and low academic achievement to become educated, self-motivated leaders who impact more lives, than you?

Please consider supporting PEARLS and all the future change-makers like me. Your investment will help girls of all backgrounds find a new door in their life that is full of love and support to never give up on their dreams.

Thank you for letting me share my story and for recognizing the strength and Shero in every girl.


Toneka Griffin- PEARLS Alumna, 2015 PEARLS Girl of the Year, Past PEARLS Staff Member and Georgia Firefighter