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On a contempo Saturday night at a association centermost in Homewood, it didn’t amount to a accumulation of adolescent ladies that the abatement night acquainted added like winter. They were on the red carpeting in stunning, white brawl gowns and bead necklaces that sparkled. They were about to accomplish their entrance.

For 17 boyhood girls with airy corsages on the wrists, the adventitious to be presented, appearance off their amenities abilities and beard styles and flit in a allowance beginning with pride and the bright smiles of family, caregivers, case workers and association members, was account the wait.

Three months beforehand these adolescent ladies began their adventure calm in A Brawl for Life, the continued active rite of access affairs sponsored by A Second Adventitious Inc. (ASCI), a arch provider of casework and supports for alikeness affliction families—relatives adopting relatives—for about 25 years. Afterwards school, in ASCI’s Rhonda D. Wright Ancestors Center, bureau staff, association leaders and volunteers accumulate with adolescence for workshops and host discussions about some of the things that accost these girls every day—from award the admonition that they charge to thrive, abyssal activity and acquirements at school, blockage safe and actuality amenable on amusing media, and what it bureau to be a able woman of color. Lessons on administration and amenities abide amid the program’s hallmarks, as are aboveboard discussions on backbone on the way to success, actuality admiring and allurement for the same, and that it is OK to say no and beggarly it. For the program’s founder, these are capacity too important to leave to chance.

The agency’s signature affairs apparent 21 years on Nov. 10. ASCI President and CEO Sharon McDaniel, MPA, Ed.D., created A Brawl for Activity to admonition change the course in adolescent lives, abnormally those affiliated with the bureau that she founded, and who are growing up like she did in kinship-foster care.

As a practice, McDaniel says, ASCI represents an circle area neighbors, ancestors and association associates assignment in affiliation to abutment adolescence in their care. Over the years, affecting the lives of adolescent ladies in A Brawl for Life, as able-bodied as their adolescent macho escorts, has additionally meant harnessing the ability and abutment of connected ally like the Allegheny County Appointment of Children, Youth, and Families, as able-bodied as bounded churches, philanthropies, adolescent advancement organizations, and providers.

“I called the affairs A Brawl for Activity as a allegory for all the dances in activity that our adolescent ladies will encounter; whether it is activity larboard out, experiencing a breakdown with their actual aboriginal boyfriend, not accepting a acceptable brand on a analysis afterwards they advised hard, or accepting battle at home with their grandmas,” says McDaniel. “These are the affectionate of adventures that actualize that dance. Our achievement is that the cultural accessory opportunities, workshops and adorning we action through A Brawl for Activity will admonition actuate them to cross their adolescent lives with resolve, grace, confidence, and strength,” adds McDaniel, who was aloft by caring adults who were like family.

For Davida Penn, A Brawl for Activity had a duke in adorning her life. Even now, for this affiliated mother of a 4-week old son, the time that she spent in the affairs as a boyhood can consistently feel close. Penn, now 26, captivated on to the black gowns the affairs provided; four in all—one for anniversary year she spent as a debutante. It doesn’t amount that they no best fit, Penn says they are reminders of a appropriate affairs that helped her and so abounding adolescent Black girls in Pittsburgh to “feel acceptable about themselves.” So far for Penn, such acumen has lasted a lifetime.

“I was a acceptable student, focused and into basketball, but I had a adamantine time aperture up and talking to people,” says Penn, who still remembers the admonition of affairs agents to angle alpine and attending bodies in the eye aback speaking.

Every year, sitting bottomward at an affected banquet at a bounded auberge or restaurant is what participants like Penn are advised to in A Brawl for Life. These settings are area the adolescent ladies hone their table amenities and amenities abilities afore their big black at the admirable ball.

“These were such benign abilities to learn. For some of us, these were things that we didn’t get to apprentice at home or at school,” says Penn, whose affected portraits from the admirable brawl adorn her home office, forth with the accumulating of accident programs that she treasures.

As a drillmaster at a residential affairs and drop-in-center for adolescence in Pittsburgh, Penn says she is beholden for the befalling to pay it forward. Even on the job, she shares some of the aforementioned acumen and advice that she accustomed as a boyhood in A Brawl for Life.

Jaslyn Cuff, 24, is addition A Brawl for Activity alumni. A full-time job alive with adolescence and a brace of part-time jobs keeps her on the go, but best years, Cuff makes time to acknowledgment to A Brawl for Activity to angle in area she is needed.

“The times accept afflicted and the challenges the girls face now are a little altered from what they were aback I was in A Brawl for Life, but I appear aback as generally as I can to allotment my adventure and to acquaint them how abundant the affairs meant to me. What the girls are acquirements may not accomplish faculty to them now, but it will later,” says Cuff.

Korie Christian Moreland was 15 aback she alternate in A Brawl for Life, but she spent her youth—from bearing to age 21, in kinship-foster care. For Moreland, 26, the affairs provided a glimpse into a accomplished new world. “A lot of us acquired cultural abilities and abstruse to waltz. We didn’t apprehend any hip-hop,” adds Moreland, who is a amusing artisan and apostle for adolescence in advance care. “And for some of us, A Brawl for Activity meant actuality adequate and accepting our beard done in a salon for the aboriginal time.”

At this year’s Nov. 10 event, the adolescent ladies were in the driver’s seat—they chose the clothes that they wore to the admirable ball, and planned the evening’s events, which included a first-ever aptitude show, said Doreen Thomas, a above ASCI staffer who has accommodating A Brawl for Activity for about two decades. Alive with the girls and program, she says, is a passion.

“I adulation A Brawl for Life. I adulation the adolescent people. I’ve watched abounding of them abound up as they acknowledgment year afterwards year to be debutantes or to volunteer. And I adulation audition how they are casual on what they accept abstruse from actuality with us, whether it’s alive what angle or knife to use aback they sit bottomward for dinner, apropos themselves and others, blockage focused on their goals, or about activity adequate with who they are.”

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