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Friday, January 27, 2023

Youth Advocate Empowers Young Women, Event Encourages Setting Intentions for 2023

Shaleece Williams knows the importance of youth having a voice and opportunity to utilize resources as they develop. Williams grew up in Baltimore. Her parents struggled with drug addiction, but they were able to get back on their feet.

“So, with my parents, dealing with their issues, I was adopted at a young age for a few years and then moved back with my parents once they made it through the program where they went to resolve their drug addiction.”

Williams recalls staying with a few different families. She returned to her parents when she was approximately eight years old. Williams was able to access mental health resources and utilize community centers in her teenage years.

“I was always privy to mentors who made it their duty to make sure that regardless of my circumstances, I could still have a fair shot,” Williams said.

Anthony Pressley— the long-standing Executive Director for Druid Heights Community Development Corporation—was among the individuals who positively impacted Williams’ journey. She met her lifelong mentor at the age of eight when she attended a summer camp. Williams later received her first job as a youth counselor at the nonprofit organization. She credits Pressley with contributing to her professional development while also ensuring that she could experience additional opportunities in her professional career.

Williams’ life experience navigating through challenges, and harnessing self-empowerment, now benefits youth. She works as the Director of Youth Programming for No Boundaries Coalition, a resident-led advocacy organization specifically working with seven communities in Central West Baltimore. Williams is also the co-founder and Executive Director of the Tree House Project, Inc. It was founded in 2016 with Deaundra Fisher.

“Tree House Project, Inc. is an organization where we connect youth to resources that are related to their own personal development. We do peer mentoring, and with peer mentoring, young women come in and we host open conversation circles and peer mentoring training in different types of workshops for the self-development of young women,” the youth advocate said. “It’s not really like a young Black woman type thing. It’s just womanhood and sisterhood in general.”

Young women are given opportunities to engage in self-development and self-improvement. They venture out of their everyday environments monthly while engaging in yoga, meditation, hikes, and visiting different parks in Maryland. Young women are also connected to resources such as mental health or housing agency resources if they come to the nonprofit with those needs.

Additionally, events hosted by Tree House Project, Inc. are usually open to the public.

“We do say that we’re looking to serve young women between the ages of 14 to 24, but we’ve also hosted events outside of Baltimore,” Williams said. “We take our workshops, our conferences, and our trails, anywhere where the need is, or someone reaches out to us to have us come out and host workshops or events.”

Williams also explained that young women from Annapolis have also participated. Event attendees who are over 18 typically bring another young woman with them.

Tree House Project, Inc. will be offering A Beyond the Resolution Workshop for girls who are ages 14 and older on Saturday, January 21, 2022, from 11:00 a.m.– 2:00 p.m. at Baltimore Unity Hall, located at 1505 Eutaw Place in Baltimore, Md.

Shaleece Williams,Tree House Project, Inc. co-founder
Photo credit: Ariana Perez

“Once they come in, they’ll participate in a workshop where they’ll identify their goals for the upcoming year. They’ll get a schedule for Treehouse Project where they’re invited to come back to additional events. It’s also open to 18 and older for women who just want to come in and either get connected to an organization, learn about the volunteer opportunities with the organization, but also work on developing what their goals are for the year, and work on their own personal development,” Williams said.

Williams’ investment in youth benefits parents such as Tierra Carter who is from Baltimore. Her daughter, Khayia Brown participates in Tree House Project, Inc. and No Boundaries. She said that she has observed a big difference with her daughter and the teenager’s self-esteem. She is more vocal in the community activism space, too. Carter described Williams as “amazing.” She has reportedly supported Khayia with school and personal needs.

“I definitely know that she [Shaleece] has impacted my daughter’s future,” Carter added.

Visit http://www.treehouseprojectinc.org/ to learn more about The Treehouse Project, Inc. and  http://www.treehouseprojectinc.org/events to obtain event information. Tickets for the upcoming workshop will be sold from December 30, 2022, until January 18, 2023. They can be reserved on the website. The event will be free for young women  who are ages 14 to 17. Admission is $30 for young ladies who are 18 and older.

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