For-girls org taps into the ‘Princess Within’

Bernada Nicole Baker, center, is pictured with her organization’s newest princesses. Baker founded The Princess Within girl-empowerment foundation six years ago to help the young royalty realize their power and potential. Defender/Rhonda Gillespie

Bernada Nicole Baker had it pretty good growing up, as far as mentors and role models go. “I was fortunate enough to be blessed with positive role models and women in the community and family who always poured into me,” Baker told the Defender.

“I knew I was a princess and that whatever there was in life that I wanted, that I had the power and potential within to go after it,” Baker, who had an MBA and master’s degree in public health by the age of 23, told the Defender. She recalls “so many seeds that had been poured into my life.” But as an adult, she noticed that the same wasn’t true for a lot of girls and she couldn’t sit idly by and not reach out to them.

Pregnancy, drug and alcohol use, and other “things of the streets” she saw teen girls get involved in led Baker to establish a program that offered not only an alternative to those life-changing things, but one that had a message of empowerment and encouragement.

The Princess Within program that she founded six years ago started with a handfull of girls, helping them to realize the positive potential they had to be successful in life.

“I really was led to offer a program that was safe and a sacred space for young girls so they would not have to turn to the streets,” explained Baker, who also has a master’s of divinity degree. “I really just go tired of seeing young girls who really didn’t believe in themselves, who really didn’t have the zeal and motivation to go after life.

The non-profit program grew from reaching out to a small number of girls at churches and in social service organizations – especially in the Englewood and Roseland communities-to now having over 100 girls currently involved. Since its inception, Baker said her Chicago-based program has touched the lives of over 500 girls here and in other cities in the nation.

April 23-25, the program offered its first annual conference at the Hyat hotel on the grounds of the McDonald’s Corporation in west suburban Oak Brook. It was a weekend of workshops that included team-building exercises, rap sessions, and more relaxing activities including a pizza party and pampering spa soiree for the more than 100 girls age 7-18 who attended. They were also treated to a rare guided tour of the corporation’s Hamburger University and its museum-like chronicling if the company’s history.

The goal, Baker explained, was to tap into the girls and help them to see their importance and power within.

The weekend culminated with a coronation where the girls received princess tiaras and took an “oath” to live by the principles of The Princess Within.

“I was determined that if there was one girl that I could save, that’s what The Princess Within would do,” Baker said.

Stephanie Madison participated in the weekend event with 17 girls – including her 12-year-old daughter, Jada – from her church’s youth ministry.

She said the program helps the girls relate to issues that they all may go through.

Jada said she learned that she doesn’t have to try hard to fit in with others.

“I’m trying to stay away from negativity … by staying away from negative people that bring bad energy to me,” the sixth-grader at Kipling school told the Defender.

Mom said the girls in the program were ones she didn’t mind her daughter “mirroring after.” The program was Baker’s brainchild, but she carries it out with the help of a volunteer staff of professional social service-industry volunteers, among others.

Being a princess in the organization is not about nobility. The educator and professional counselor said it’s about life principles to live and be encouraged by: P- Priceless, R- Respectful, I- Intelligent, N- Notable, C- Courageous, E- Extraordinary, S- Special, S- Successful.

“As a princess, when we put all of these ingredients together, they have the potential to be successful in every area of their lives,” Baker said.

Baker takes her “ministry” just about anywhere she can, offering one-day to 10-week sessions, tailored toward groups and organizations who hire her to bring forth her royal message to their own girls. For more information on The Princess Within, log on to www.theprincesswithin.org    

 Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender.

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