By Jamie Leary

Young women of color in the Denver metro area are getting the help they need from a  nonprofit called Star Girlz Empowerment, which helps protect, connect and empower them. Now they are helping them with transitional housing. Without it, many revert to juvenile detention or become runaways. The need is greater than ever, and the group is moving ahead with a plan to build a safe place for the girls.

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – “There’s other people who are like you and you’re not alone, so it’s good to be Black. It’s okay to be Black. You’re Black and beautiful it’s okay and embrace it,” said Jayana Russell.

It’s something the teen likely wouldn’t have had the confidence to say had it not been for the support of Star Girlz Empowerment.

“It’s helped me get over a lot of stuff. I used to go through a lot, I was in a hard time and a hard place, so being able to talk to other girls who are going through the same thing?”

It’s given her a different outlook on life.

(credit: Star Girz Empowerment)

Russell is one of many teens involved in the organization who feel that way.

“It actually started with me to be able to take my own experiences and how the community helped me, and how family helped me, be able to become the person I am today. So looking at my own situation, being able to provide that for other young ladies here,” said Shalonda Haggerty, founder of Star Girlz Empowerment.

The 501(c)(3) was formed in 2016 and since, Haggerty has been providing services to help young women of color succeed. On Wednesday, she announced there is a much bigger goal: transitional housing.

“We have actually found some space that is in the mountains where we can get these girls out away from their normal environment, that is our goal,” she said.

Many of the girls she sees are referrals from the Colorado Department of Human Services.

“There’s not a lot of services out there for teen girls, especially around that age bracket. Once they hit 21, then they’re out of the foster care system. So for us to be able to provide those services for them, to be able to transition from the foster care system into our transitional housing, to get them back on their feet?” That’s the goal, said Haggerty.

She said she is hoping to find space to create a home base in Aurora as well and when the campaign launches in August, she hopes the community and investors will jump on board.

“According to some of the assessments that we have taken, a lot of these girls need a safe haven, a safe place to go. Sometimes the girls are in foster care or other places like that with human services, and they don’t have anywhere to go after that. Some of these girls that we get experience abuse and trauma from domestic abuse, sexual abuse and so we are able to provide them not only with our services such as counseling and our personal development classes.”

(credit: CBS)

Haggerty says none of it can be successful if they don’t have a safe place to call home. To learn more about Star Girlz Empowerment, click here.

Jamie Leary

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