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Robin Robinson and Tisha Lewis empower young Chicagoans

Sisters Peak girls with TishLewis RobRobinsPrincipal DinEverage second from right.

Sisters Peak girls with Tisha Lewis, Robin Robinson and Principal Dina Everage, second from the right.

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Updated: March 20, 2013 6:23AM

Quit your whining and go back to school! You will love it. WFLD-Ch. 32 reporter Tisha Lewis and I could not have imagined how fun and rewarding it would be when we embarked on a long-term “play date” with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls at Daniel S. Wentworth Elementary School in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Yes, it is hard trying to remember 45-50 names, and staying one step ahead of young ladies who are wicked smart — even if their grades don’t always reflect it.

This is the second year of Sisters Peak, a collective mentoring program for the girls in the upper grades at Wentworth. Tisha and I started Sisters Peak because we were tired. Sick and tired. Night after night, Tisha reported live from a crime scene, often where both victim and suspect were high school age (or close to it), while I was on the education beat, where a different sort of crime has been slowly unfolding for two decades. We were tired of ending those stories with throwaway lines about what “they” promised to do about it. We decided “we” could be “they.”

I’ve always visited schools, trying to accommodate as many of the invitations as possible. School leaders want you to be a role model of success, encouraging the kids to strive for their goals and showing them the rewards of hard work. But I often wished I could have more impact than a brief visit would allow. Sometimes I wanted to take them home! So, somewhere between a one-time meeting and foster parenting came this concept of collective mentoring.

For Sisters Peak, we’ve had sleepovers, made jewelry and crafts, shared our journals, worked out with a personal trainer, learned to make nutritious delicious food, met local author Earl Sewell, designer Barbara Bates, Rhodes Scholar Rhiana Gunn-Wright, learned to sew, raised money for a shelter and attended plays at the Goodman and Black Ensemble Theatres … whew! It sounds like a lot as I look back on it — which I seldom have time to do — but it is really just a small part of the daily lives of these children, and we hope we can help them realize how great they really are and how great the rewards can be if they choose to embrace their power. We encourage them to be leaders and not followers, visionaries and not victims, loving themselves and each other.

We have help. Friends — and friends of friends — we call the “Gorgeous Guides.” They are women who really don’t have “extra” time, because most are balancing careers and families of their own. Jacquelyn, Theresa, Tiffany, Jade, Blair, Adriana, Billie, Patty, Nikita, Twyler, Carol, Donna, Janelle, Iesha, Consuela, Debbie, Andrea, Dena, Patti, Stephanie, Joan, Rashanah. We could not, without them, have come close to the mission of Sisters Peak: “… to make a positive difference in the lives of its participants so they will achieve their very highest potential in all areas of their lives.” It’s all about the climb. Go up, young woman. Stand up to your challenges, look up to the right goals, wake up to your own power.

A few of the Guides are professional educators, and Jacquelyn Sherman Rustin, who heads an amazing youth development program called the Aaron Price Fellows, has laid out a blueprint for us to follow. Mostly, though, we just brainstorm, listen to our students’ feedback, show up and do the best we can. Wentworth Principal Dina Everage assures us that we are doing something good, but nothing could have prepared us for all the goodness we receive in return — the laughter, love and learning has us all looking forward to each activity and looking UP to a future of hope and achievement.

Robin Robinson donated her fee for writing this column to Daniel S. Wentworth Elementary School. To learn more or support Sisters Peak, email

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