MSC grads

My Sister’s Circle interacts with girls year round with an afterschool program, 1-on-1 mentoring, cultural activities on the weekends, and educational camps during the summer.

Heather Harvison has a background in public relations, marketing, and education. Her previous career path fit her skill set, but wasn’t as rewarding as she hoped. Her mother, involved in interfaith work in the community, introduced Harvison to Irma Johnson, former principal of Dallas F. Nicholas Elementary School.

Johnson expressed concern that girls in the inner city showed potential and promise, but often fell victim to the streets. Harvison was inspired by her conversation and decided to create an afterschool mentoring program for girls and My Sister’s Circle (MSC) was born. “That conversation with Irma Johnson was really the genesis of My Sister’s Circle. I ended up piloting an afterschool program. After the first year, I said I wanted to do this with my life. I left my day job full time,” said Harvison.

The organization that started 14 years ago has grown from a grassroots organization to a self-sustainable thriving business. The goal of MSC is to build financially independent, self-sufficient women. MSC takes women from different races, cultures, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. The organization has a proud slogan of “More Than Mentoring,” which emphasizes going beyond the duty of a regular mentoring organization. MSC is geared at mentoring girls during the adolescent years and continues to follow them through high school and the first year after graduation.

The program interacts with girls year round with an afterschool program, 1-on-1 mentoring, cultural activities on the weekends, and educational camps during the summer. Harvison believes in mentoring, but is a major supporter of ‘broadening the horizon” of young women.

My Sister’s Circle interacts with girls year round with an afterschool program, 1-on-1 mentoring, cultural activities on the weekends, and educational camps during the summer.

Shaniqua Warfield, a self-described “knucklehead” that was getting into a lot of trouble, participated in the program. Coming from the inner city, where, she said, everyone had the same negative outlook on life, Warfield acknowledges MSC made an impact. “ has changed my entire life on a personal level. I never knew I would be able to attend boarding school and attend college,” Warfield said. “With all the events I was exposed to different women from different races and cultures, I was taken out of my comfort zone.” Warfiled is now a 23-year-old paralegal with Murphy, Falcon, and Murphy and currently sits on MSC’s board of directors.

Warfield is one of the many success stories from MSC. Harvison credits the progressive approach to mentoring as a reason for their success “We were the forefront of the movement that committed long-term to mentoring children … in contrast the national average was a year,” Harvison said. She added that the approach was unusual at first and came with doubters who could not see people committing long term to an individual.

Harvison ignored the doubters and overcame the obstacles, learning to run a business while convincing funders to contribute to the organization. “I learned that in order to raise money you need to have a tax deductible status. I learned everything from scratch, from a 501(c)(3) plan to how to write grants and proposals,” Harvison said.

According to their website 99 percent of the graduates have been accepted into colleges and universities. Schools such as Towson, Temple, Stevenson, and Philadelphia were a few schools on the list.

The organization continues to mentor the girls and ultimately gives them a network of peers and role models they can follow to become productive citizens in the community. “Going to someone and saying your investment can change lives, the girls in our community need to be empowered and believe options, that’s an easy sell because you are speaking truth,” Harvison said.

Jonathan Hunter

AFRO Staff Writer