When Keturah Johns was 9, she lost her father to a brain aneurysm. Three years later, she also lose her mother to a diabetic complication.
Though Johns had support from family members and continued to excel academically, it was The Friendship Club that really helped her get through difficult times.
“I joined The Friendship Club right after I lost my dad, and I was in it when I lost my mom, and they were definitely there for support,” Johns said.
Through the club, Johns toured college campuses, held leadership positions and gained job experience from event coordination and catering.
“It’s looked really good on my resume, and I was able to get a job with their help,” Johns said.
She was also able to pass a difficult history class after the club provided a tutor and was given a $1,000 grant to pursue automotive services, her passion, at Sierra College next semester.
“It means a lot. It’s nice to know that there’s somebody else out there who helps,” Johns said. “It’s impacted my life a lot in the most positive way and helped me experience a lot that I wouldn’t have been able to without.”
For many girls struggling against adversity, The Friendship Club provides a second home and a support system.
After her parents separated, Shilo Piper’s life was shaken by the transition from seeing her father and siblings every day to their move to another state.
When a teacher recommended The Friendship Club, her life found stability, she said.
“I was used to having my dad around, and all of a sudden, I lived with my mom and only got to see him sometimes, and I was very close with my siblings, and it was hard being away from them,” Piper said. “I was able to go to the staff of The Friendship Club and count on them for support.”
The club not only provided college tours and advice but also a sense of community, Piper said.
“The biggest thing was there was somebody there who cared about you,” she said. “They were there with full attention, and anybody who walks through there can see how much the girls love being there and the staff loves taking care of the girls.”
The club motivated and inspired Piper to attend college, a personal triumph considering her parents never graduated high school.
“College didn’t seem likely for me,” Piper said. “Hearing the stories from staff about going to college made me believe I could do it, too. I was accepted into every one I applied to.”
Piper graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in journalism and will graduate with a master’s in public administration in December, she said.
“Being able to talk to people about life and be around people I knew cared really made a difference.”
On Tuesday The Friendship Club will host “Girl Rising,” an event in conjunction with the Nevada City Film Festival about the global movement to educate girls worldwide.
The film was directed by Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins and was chosen as the centerpiece for 10x10, a global female education campaign, according to Jesse Locks from the Nevada City Film Festival.
Piper and other students, educators and members of the media will also offer a panel discussion after the film.
The film features nine girls from different parts of the world who offer hope and inspiration in spite of difficult situations from arranged marriages to child slavery.
“The film discusses the importance of education, especially for girls around the world,” said Jennifer Singer, executive director of The Friendship Club.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to share with the community the idea of investing in girls and the importance of educating girls, which The Friendship Club has been doing for 18 years.”
The club began in the summer of 1995 after Mary Collier, who directed a mentoring program for disadvantaged children, wanted to offer support to teenaged girls.
It began as a week-long summer program with Collier, Jennifer Singer and Amanda Chavez and grew to be a year-round service for 100 girls in sixth through 12th grade.
“The goal is to educate and empower girls at risk to grab hold of their future and take charge of it and end the cycle of generational poverty,” Singer said.
Teachers and counselors recommend the club to girls in single-parent homes, challenged with drug and alcohol abuse at home, academic deficiencies or those identified with potential and desire to do something with their lives, Singer said.
The Friendship Club provides girls with resources, from emotional and academic support, job skills and health and lifestyle advice to scholarship applications, Singer said.
The club will also host a scholarship dinner 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. May 9 for the price of $75, which will be used to cover the cost of the event and fund the program.
“Ever year, we’ve seen a cohort graduate from four to 10 girls who go onto education beyond high school who are eligible to apply for The Friendship Club Scholarship,” Singer said. “This year we have eight girls.”
For tickets to the graduation and scholarship dinner, contact The Friendship Club at 530-265-4311.
The organization also accepts donations, which can be sent through the website at http://friendshipclub.org or by contacting the office.
“It’s a very multi-faceted program to teach girls and get them excited about life so they don’t just look around and think there’s no one there and give up,” Singer said. “They call it a home away from home.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.