On Sunday, June 4, Mochacademy, hosted their first ever awards ceremony and fashion show at the Mt. Rubidoux SDA church in Riverside, where girls from grades 6th to 10th took the stage to showcase their gifts and talents through song, sewing, painting and other exciting and engaging activities that they had the opportunity to learn throughout the first year of the programs conception.
I had the privilege of talking with Toni Collins-Percivale, whose two daughters were mentees in the first ever program. I asked her how did she hear about Mochacademy and she lovingly expressed that she heard about it through co-founder Marjean (MJ) Sterling. Her main reason for allowing her daughters to partake in the program was because she shared and understood the same philosophy as MJ, in that it takes a village to raise our children.
Since the beginning of this recent school year, Toni noticed that because of Mochacademy her daughters began to take pride in their grooming habits, their promptness to engagement, and the willingness to speak positively over their selves without pressure from their mother. A few things that Toni would like to see more of for Mochacademy in the future would be the continuation of mentorship and self-awareness and additional funding, fundraisers to help assist with more cultural and engaging events to expose the girls to more positive things going on in our world today.
I also had the opportunity to speak with a first-time visitor who was invited by a presenter throughout the year by the name of Sharmaine Campbell. She brought her daughter to the event to check it out and is considering signing her up for the program to help her break out of her shell of shyness. She believes that a program like Mocacademy is much needed in our community.
I had the honor of asking Shayla Moore and Marjean (MJ) Sterling, founders of Mochacademy, a few questions, for them to share the thought process behind starting the organization and what they could take away from their first full year.
If I remember correctly, conversations regarding starting this program began in April of last year. What was the initial thought process of why you wanted to put this program together?
MJ- I’d have to say that conversations about starting this program actually ended in April of 2016. It was at that time that we realized that we could either talk about it or be about it, and we chose the latter. From that night on, we no longer talked about starting this program, we started it and all conversations shifted focus to what we would do within our program. We knew what we wanted to accomplish, and from there we birthed our “why”, after that it was only a matter of “how”.
Shayla – I believe it is necessary to pour into the woman of our future. It is important to provide positive images for our young community and let them know they can become anything they put their mind to. With so many negative images of African American woman we want to remind them that they are a child a God, heirs to the kingdom and should not settle for anything less.
Also, the decision was made to start the program last April but we have been speaking about this for years. We finally said we need to do it and ever since things have come together. This is how we knew it was meant to be.
What did the first year teach you about mentorship?
MJ – My first year with Mochacademy taught me that in order to be successful, I must be open-minded. Sometimes the “perfect” plan or idea still needs a few tweaks and adjustments from a second or third source. And just like all things in life I had to expect the unexpected! If we hadn’t been able to take things in stride, we would have felt defeated from the very beginning. Nothing went exactly as planned, but everything always worked out every single time.
Shayla – There is no guideline to follow. You must follow your heart and take the time to build bonds. Once a bond is made is when you can start to leave lasting impressions. These girls have made me a better person while I want to make an impression on them they have changed my life for the better as well. Mentoring is enriching to the mentor as well the mentee.
Did this first year end up looking how you envisioned?
MJ – Our vision was a sketch, and first year filled in the colors. The sketch was beautiful, admirable, and ambitious; but it paled in comparison to what was unveiled as we started adding the colors. The colors were the individual girls, their personalities, the bonds that were created, the lessons they learned, the conversations that were held, the songs that were made up on long trips, the smiles, the laughter, and even a few tears. Our first year exceeded our vision.
Shayla – No, it exceeded every expectation we had. God has truly blessed us with amazing people that made our dream a reality.
Have you done anything like this in past time? Any mentorship programs or volunteer programs geared towards a similar purpose?
MJ – I’ve never been involved in or seen a program like ours, but in my youth I was a part of a mentoring program and I always knew that it was imperative that as I came into my own, I paid it forward and poured into the next generation.
Shayla – No, not formally. I have had mentors growing up that have made lasting impressions and I think it is necessary to do it for others.
What are you MOST proud of?
MJ – I’m most proud of the mentors. These ladies have given of themselves wanting nothing in return. Time is precious, and once you give it away there’s no getting it back. These ladies have been selfless with their time, skills, and resources. I’m most proud of the fact that they’re in my life and I can call them Friend. If I had to leave the program today, I know the girls would still be in excellent hands.
Shayla – That I have made an everlasting impression on eight amazing young ladies. I pray that I can continue to lead them to Christ and to a successful future.
You can also, find them on social media Facebook: Mochacademy Mentoring Program Instagram: Mochacademy
The meeting times will be held from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. every third Sunday, beginning in September 2017 through May 2018
We accept applicants 6th grade to 10th grade the program goes up to 12th grade and are currently accepting mentor applications. Mentees should take advantage of the early bird registration as space is limited. If you are currently unable to give of your time, but would like to know the areas in which we need donations, please contact them.