To help balance the scales of inequality Mickell Daniels founded Glow414 (Girls Learning to become Outstanding Women), an organization to advocate for underprivileged girls and learn everything from financial literacy to managing mental health.
“My day begins the night before,” said Daniels. She sets alarms to organize her day, which is helpful during chaotic mornings before bringing her children to school and help manage when meetings are. Among reaching out to her 20-plus mentees and their families to check in and help them with what they need and running Glow414. Daniels tries her best to find a time to eat.
Coming up, at the start of March, Glow414 will begin accepting donations on their website for their program to begin growing produce. They will use hydroponic “towers” to remain eco-friendly and produce as much as they can to begin providing healthy food options. Daniels paid out-of-pocket for the first tower but is hoping for community contributions to expand the operation and help with the maintenance costs.
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As a licensed therapist, Daniels also wants to dispel the stigma of talking about mental health obstacles using open and honest conversations. While there are many who suffer from mental illnesses, Daniels also wants to shine a light on trauma induced by circumstance. Some of the girls do not have emotional support and are put down by people who are supposed to help them grow like teachers, parents and even those in the criminal justice system.
“If people tell me I am not going to be anything every five minutes, I am going to start believing that and act out,” said Daniels.
One young girl, who is now an employee at Walgreens, on track to finish high school and applying for college, was given up by her parents because they claimed the inability to provide her adequate care due to her mental health. The young girl was placed in a group home and the relationship with her parents deteriorated further. Daniels believes that it was due to a lack of empathy and effort on the behalf of the parents who called her, “unfixable.”
Finally, it came down to the young girl being up to be transferred to a home in Arkansas in a disciplinary hearing. Daniels went to court with her for support but ended up testifying to advocate for her. “Without my testimony the judge might not have changed his mind,” said Daniels. She was not scheduled to speak but took the initiative and asked to testify. Daniels spoke about the progress the young girl had made with Glow414 and how displacing her to another state where she has no friends or family sends the message she can be discarded. The judge ruled in favor of the girl staying in Milwaukee and required family therapy as a solution. “Even to this day she thanks me that I helped keep her in Milwaukee,” said Daniels.
Showing up in court is not the only way Glow414 advocates for youth. According to Daniels advocacy can be as small as mediating inter-family arguments or just checking-in to see how school is going. The mentors are so involved in their mentee’s lives Daniels says “Glow is like a second family.”
Photo courtesy of Mickell Daniels
Glow414 offers internships and volunteer opportunities for the participants. They are partnered with UW-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College to send the young girls to work with faculty and begin to learn about social work and psychology as a career development opportunity. They also offer volunteer opportunities, but organizations and businesses cannot just call and request volunteers. They must apply and be interviewed to ensure they agree with Glow’s goals and it is a safe environment.
Glow414 has classes that help teach the participants how to balance checkbooks, budget and other essential skills growing adults need. They also teach them about healthy eating, teach them how to dress professionally, deal with conflict and network their skills.
Discussions in youth-led meetings about what has worked for the mentees’ start-ups or ask questions about how to smartly manage their finances if they are having difficulties. The mentees typically form connections with each other and have even teamed up in the past to build stronger businesses.
For those experiencing financial hardship and homelessness, Glow414 has a living space where the youth can pay partial rent and get back on their feet. They help prepare them for job interviews and their resumes. The inexpensive housing is up for six months to a year-long lease, during which time the tenants take the classes offered by Glow414 and by then are prepared to go off on their own. The reduced price-tag on the rent helps them save to prove a semblance of financial security.
“My ultimate goal is to inevitably work myself out of a job,” said Daniels. “That means I am here to teach my youth how to be that successful citizen.”
Daniels grew up impoverished on the northside of Milwaukee and knows many of the hardships that these young girls are going through. “I grew up in the inner city, so when I was going up all it was is survival,” said Daniels. “What they are thinking is how am I going to get the rent and food.”
Daniels believes when you are given the chance to move out of this mindset and have the privilege of thinking about what the future holds, which is when opportunity presents itself. Daniels wants to give that to the mentees.