When Shirlonda Evans first asked the youths if they wanted to own their own business, 10-year-old Dana Alexander was the only one who said she did.
Dana said she wanted to be a fashion designer.
Evans, executive director of Destiny Leaders, then led a discussion about entrepreneurship with the participants of Destiny Leaders Youth Success Program as they sat around a table in a meeting area at North Augusta Gardens on July 31.
“Even if you don’t want to own your own business, you still need to know how,” she told them. “It will help you a lot in your career.”
The group of youths talked about the attributes of an entrepreneur, what it takes to start up a business and the importance of being knowledgeable in their career.
After discussing what an entrepreneur does and what it takes to be one, more of the youths liked the idea of becoming a business owner one day.
“Entrepreneurship is not that scary,” Evans told them. “It’s all about filling your passion.”
Destiny Leaders is a nonprofit organization founded by Evans in 2008 in Decatur, Ga. The organization hosts workshops and seminars for other organizations and it also has two programs: Serving and Learning Together, a group for women, and Destiny Leaders Youth Success Program, which is geared toward youths ages 11 to 18.
In S.A.L.T., the women learn about knowing oneself, child management and house management.
In the Destiny Leaders Youth Success Program, the youths learn about life skills, entrepreneurship, academic skills, community building and leadership skills.
“My vision was to get the youth to understand that they have skills that have been given to them through God, and I want to help them sharpen those skills,” Evans said.
After moving to the North Augusta area, she decided she wanted to continue with the organization’s mission and its programming. She met with the North Augusta Gardens property manager about what she wanted to do and the manager agreed to partner with her and allow her use the space for programming and meetings with women and youth in the community, she said.
“I love youth,” she said of her decision to keep the organization going despite her change in location. “It didn’t matter what city, state or country I am in – you will always have youth and I want to reach out to them regardless of where they are.”
Destiny Leaders has been operating in North Augusta for about seven months. The youths meet every Tuesday and members of S.A.L.T. meet once a month.
With the youth program, Evans also brings in mentors and they take trips related to the participants’ career interests or one of the focus areas, she said.
“I want to keep them focused on the prize, focused on their career goals,” she said. “If they can see it and touch it, it becomes more realistic.”
Talking about being a business owner made Dana even more excited about her future, she said after the group’s discussion.
“I’m really creative and I love to design things, so I want that to be my career,” she said.
She already has a head start on her future career as a professional fashion designer. Even now she likes creating clothes and making crafts, she said.
Participating in the Destiny Leaders Youth Success Program helps make one a well-rounded person, said participant Dominique Pressley, 16.
“I like coming because we get to learn about different things, learn about life, learn how to be successful in everything we do,” she said.
She also likes the social aspects of the group and how Evans interacts and encourages them, she said.
“You can tell she wants us to be successful in life,” Dominique said.
S.A.L.T. meets the last Tuesday of the month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and Destiny Leaders Youth Success Program meets every Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Both meetings are held in the meeting area of the office building at North Augusta Gardens on West Hugh Street.
If interested in joining S.A.L.T. or Destiny Leaders Youth Success Program, becoming a volunteer or making a donation, contact Evans at (888) 444-5772 or firstname.lastname@example.org.