PHOTO BY KATIE WILLIAMSON / Rising STARS for Christ Volunteers met at the Lincoln  County Library for an interest meeting in July. Those pictured are (front row, from left) Felicia Brown, LaTasha Smith-Fields, Shayla Tate, Hannah Williams, Brittany Sias and Falana McDaniel; (back row) Jayla Robinson, Julia Parker, Charlotte Daniels and Christy Spiller
PHOTO BY KATIE WILLIAMSON / Rising STARS for Christ Volunteers met at the Lincoln County Library for an interest meeting in July. Those pictured are (front row, from left) Felicia Brown, LaTasha Smith-Fields, Shayla Tate, Hannah Williams, Brittany Sias and Falana McDaniel; (back row) Jayla Robinson, Julia Parker, Charlotte Daniels and Christy Spiller

Rising STARS for Christ

Published 8:00am Sunday, August 24, 2014

Year after year, polls, surveys and studies show Mississippi suffering from poor education, but one group is starting a grassroots effort to help at-risk young women prepare for a bright future.

Falana McDaniel taught high school for four years and during that time she saw many students struggling academically. Oftentimes, she would pause her teaching to help address the students’ other needs. Stepping into a mentor position became a necessary part of her job.

“Once I began to encourage and inspire, I saw the students get more into education,” she said.

From her time in the classroom, McDaniel began to see how important the role of a mentor could be.

“God laid it on my heart,” she said as the idea to start a mentoring program took off.

McDaniel took the passion and created Rising Stars for Christ. By providing mentors outside of class, the group aims to help the teachers focus on educating the students. McDaniel said she hopes the program will equip the students with the necessary skills to lead powerful lives.

“I believe it will inspire and empower them to be better in life,” she said.

McDaniel said many of the girls participating have had one or both parents die or suffered other hardships. The mentors will be able to give these young women that parental guidance.

The purpose of the program is to give these women the capabilities to live the lives they want.

“If we can inspire and empower them, they’ll take the initiative to do better,” she said.

Right now, the group has 13 mentors, but McDaniel said she is praying that God brings her some more volunteers.

“If that’s where their heart is and that’s where they want to be, we’ll find a place for them,” she said.

Registration for the program will take place on Saturday, Aug. 30, along with a leadership workshop, at the Lincoln County Library. The group also has trips planned, such as a trip in a couple months to New Orleans, Louisiana. The group will also provide for one-on-one mentoring. She hopes the mentors will also be able to take the mentored students on college visits to help promote their further education. The mentors range across several professions, including teaching and counseling.

McDaniel plans to encourage these women to develop long-term relationships with each other. Each year, the group plans to open registration for new girls to join, but the girls already participating will continue on.

“I am most looking forward to changing lives,” she said, “so we can have a better community and help them make better choices.

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