Drive, dedication and a passion for changing lives

Date: March 24, 2015

How one young girl found her calling serving Baltimore youth

Antoinella Peterkin bubbles with energy as she talks about her plans to start a nonprofit to serve at-risk children in Baltimore. Once faced with her own challenges as a child, Antoinella is an inspiring example of how having strong positive role models can turn young girls into independent, extraordinary women.

At only 23, Antoinella has graduated from Notre Dame of Maryland University, spent two years as an AmeriCorps volunteer and spearheaded a successful girls afterschool program at Higher Achievement, an nonprofit that aims to close the opportunity gap for middle school youth.

What got Antoinella where she is today, dedicating so much of her energy to changing the lives of youth in our community? Much of her passion stems from her experience with My Sister’s Circle (MSC), a United Way funded mentoring program that exposes underprivileged girls to opportunities that empower them to define success for themselves, make intentional decisions about their future and become self-sufficient young women.

Antoinella didn’t always have a stable, supportive environment growing up. Her teachers thought she could benefit from MSC and she quickly became one of the first girls to enroll in the program. Uncertain about what to expect, she was hesitant to dive right in but her godmother, a big influence in her life, encouraged her to continue. She soon came to love the time she spent with her mentor and saw herself transforming into a confident young woman. Now Antoinella is looking forward to becoming an MSC mentor herself.

“My Sister’s Circle taught me two very important things: respect and how to take what I have and make the best of it. They gave me a sense of stability and set a foundation for me to make good decisions in my life. As I became an adult, I just knew I had to give back to other girls in my community since I was given so many opportunities through MSC when I was younger,” she said.

Antoinella is now busy organizing events for the afterschool program she started, called Fashion, Art, Mentoring and Etiquette (FAME). Soon to be a nonprofit organization, FAME encourages underserved girls to embrace their creativity and learn about entrepreneurship through the arts. She already has 28 girls enrolled and is looking to launch a program for boys later this year.

United Way of Central Maryland is proud to partner with organizations like My Sister’s Circle that work to bring stability to children from low-income families, increasing the odds of them growing up to lead self-sufficient and productive lives.

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