Youth group takes D.I.V.A. to the next level

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, March 21, 2012

One by one, teenage girls stood up and approached a decorated cake. Some took a small piece with a knife, others dipped their finger in the icing and some slammed their hands into the cake to pull out fistfuls of icing and crushed dessert.

Each change in the cake symbolized how sexual encounters can damage a young woman’s self-esteem and spirit.

At the end of the exercise, another cake was displayed – whole and untouched.

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“Which would you rather be?” asked Pamela Nealey, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Pike and Surrounding Counties. “When you meet your future husband, which cake do you want to represent you?”

The exercise was part of an after school program Nealey heads up at the club called Dear D.I.V.A.

“We’re taking diva to the next level,” Nealey said with some sass before explaining that the letters in the group name stand for dynamic, intellectual, virtuous and admirable.

Nealey said her main reason for bringing the D.I.V.A. program to Pike County in February was what she calls “girl drama.”

And she’s found help from a few Troy University students who partake in a similar program on campus. Members of the new student-founded group M.I.S.S. Elite Society share the same goals of uplifting and empowering women.

The group’s name stands for “Motivating and Instilling Sophisticated Students into an Elite Society.”

“We were looking for a good volunteer opportunity and this was the perfect fit,” said M.I.S.S. Elite’s event coordinator Christina Cook, 20.

“I never had a mentor when I was younger,” explained one of the group’s members Tiffany Slater, 20. “I feel that I am helping the girls, but I am growing too because I am listening and sharing.”

The Troy students visit with the teenagers and discuss anything the girls are dealing with, from studying, self-esteem and ways to improve their lives, to sex and abstinence.

“We are teaching young ladies to act like young ladies,” Nealey said.

“I love it because I can express myself and talk to people who understand me,” said Lalonie Berry, a 12-year-old student at Charles Henderson Middle School. “I have learned how to respect people and how to go to people when you need help with anything.”

Nealey also volunteers with the F.L.O (For Ladies Only) program at Charles Henderson Middle School that tackles some of the same issues as the D.I.V.A. group. For information on either program, call the Boys & Girls Club. For information about the M.I.S.S. Elite Society, visit their Facebook page.

To see a photo gallery of today’s D.I.V.A. session, visit