"That's a lot of women in jail," Rawls
said."There's a war against us and we've got to decide what we need to do to fight it."
Avoiding the path leading to prison and finding a way to achieve personal goals was the topic of discussion in separate workshops for boys and girls at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Center in Gainesville. "There are some beautiful black women in this room, and all of you have what it takes to make a difference in this world," said Ida Rawls, director of the Alachua County Equal Opportunity Division, at the workshop for young women.
"Don't allow your life to be destroyed before you get started," she
Meshon Rawls tried to coax the reticent group into sharing their personal experiences and concerns about the challenges they face.
"We've got to start looking at ourselves and asking, 'What can I do?What am I doing right now that's not so positive that I can change?'" she
Not getting pregnant is a good start, she
pounded the point in harder."Not all of us have grandmas who feel like taking care of babies," she
said."You'll be sitting there with a baby, and where's the guy?He's
got another girlfriend."
Girls who have been physically or sexually abused face even more obstacles to success than most children, and so it's important for them to tell someone of their abuse, Meshon Rawls said."You don't have to keep quiet," she
said."The longer you stay in a situation, the worse it is for you."
told the girls about a 10th-grader who showed her
the fist-sized bruise on her
thigh, courtesy of her
boyfriend."If a guy is going to hit you, talk down to you, make you feel bad about yourself - you don't need that young man.They don't hit you because they love you," she
The workshop participants slowly offered ideas about what they needed to do to graduate from high school, including saying no to drugs, attending class and making good grades, choosing friends carefully, being a role model for younger siblings, respecting others and maintaining a positive attitude.