Young adolescent women often have a tough time engaging with their families and peers, but those with mental health needs or behavioral challenges may have even more trouble finding their way. Precious Durant, 27, has known some of these difficulties in her own life and in recent years has been dedicated to helping girls, aged 14-24, as a Youth Advocate at JCCA’s Family Resource Center.

“I understand some of the problems these girls face,” says Precious. “They run with the wrong crowd and follow the wrong leaders. I try to teach them to be leaders themselves and find the better road. I want them to discover and express their own talents, set their own example, and show their friends that they can become the right sorts of leaders.”

In order to expand that vision of themselves, Precious takes these girls from Central and South Brooklyn on field trips to theatres, movies, and museums across the city. She has also been instrumental in finding them internships and jobs, and involving them in summer youth programs as well as community service projects like cleaning up local parks.  “I try to find activities that allow these kids to socialize in a positive, safe way,” she continues. She also counsels her girls about health education and preparing for job applications and interviews.

Recently, Precious began a new initiative, a “Makeup Bootcamp,” to develop self-esteem and confidence. Her group curriculum is intended to help girls feel better about their body image by using make-up and cosmetics as a tool and a starting point to encourage conversation and debunk negative thoughts and self-images. Her intention is to teach young women how to take care of their skin and apply make-up while at the same time reinforcing their sense of inner beauty. On a practical level, she also believes it’s important for them to present themselves well at job interviews.

Precious elaborates, “My personal struggles were that I didn’t fit in with my peers. I felt like an outcast and suffered from depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My connection with these kids is to help them see that they don’t have to change who they are to fit in. A lot of them struggle with depression and I help them discover coping mechanisms and hobbies they can pursue to keep their minds positively occupied.”

Precious is gratified when she sees the satisfaction her girls feel when finding their way in the world: “It’s great to see them motivated and energized. They don’t realize that their successes encourage me to overcome my own issues about being able to accept who I am—they make me feel better about life!”