Off the Clock: Chandler Helps Girls Learn to Believe in Themselves

Posted: July 13, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: July 12, 2009 at 9:01 pm

By Rashad Mulla

Morgan Chandler. Photo by Rashad Mulla

Morgan Chandler. Photo by Rashad Mulla

Girls in the Washington, D.C., area are learning the importance of self-perception. Morgan Chandler would have it no other way.

Chandler, client services specialist in the Office of Student Financial Aid, is a co-founder of Miss Believe, a Laurel, Md.-based nonprofit organization that aims to educate adolescent girls on the importance of self-perception through lectures and organized activities.

The program, which began in February, has made its way through three area high schools. Most recently, Chandler and co-founder Ebony Lewis visited The Triumphant Church in Hyattsville, Md.

Although the program is new, the girls in the audience were receptive to the ideals of the program, Chandler says.

“Some of the issues we discussed were self-perception, confidence and self-esteem,” she says. “If they don’t have these qualities, that can be a domino effect on a lot of other things.”

The programs are designed for no more than 15 girls at a time to increase the attention paid to each one, Chandler reasons. So far, Chandler has kept in touch with more than 30 girls from past programs.

“We want to be able to follow up with the girls,” she says. “We want them to be able to participate in the program every year.”

Aside from consistent follow-up, Chandler would also like the program to evolve into a six-week course in which the girls would discuss a different topic each week. The plan is to have this system in place by early 2010, Chandler says. Eventually, she would like Miss Believe to be a seven-year program in which girls begin attending at age 10 and graduate at age 16.

One of the groups to which Morgan Chandler has presented a Miss Believe program.

One of the groups to which Morgan Chandler has presented a Miss Believe program. Photo courtesy of Morgan Chandler

During the summer, Miss Believe is reaching out to more schools, recreation centers and churches in hopes of building relationships. The program is already headed back to The Triumphant Church for a follow-up session.

“We’ll go back in person and meet with the girls and try to refresh their memories on what we’ve previously gone over,” Chandler says. “We’ll also try to move on and teach them something else.”

On Miss Believe days, Chandler gets to work early, finishes her work and leaves about two hours before kids get out of school. The hectic schedule on these days is worth it, she says.

“Sometimes people look at the inner city and they say, ‘Why are these girls like this?’ and ‘Why are these girls so wild?’” Chandler says. “I believe this is a repeat cycle. I think that if you have a better understanding of self-perception and self-awareness, it can help break the cycle.”

She adds, “Instead of me sitting around being one of the people complaining about it, why not help?”

Aside from working full time in the Financial Aid Office, Chandler is a nondegree Mason student. She hopes eventually to earn a master’s in fine arts. She also participates in Mason Dream-Catchers, a program designed for Mason faculty and staff members to provide guidance to Fairfax County high school students.

Chandler graduated from Norfolk State University in 2006 with a degree in graphic design.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu