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Written by Alison Martin
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Shakyra Ragsdale got a scare when trying to raise money for college, but her mentor, Jamila Trimuel, got her through. 
In August 2014, no college freshman was more eager to start school than Shakyra Ragsdale, then 18. Bound for Tennessee State University, Shakyra dreamed of her first day of classes — until everything came crashing down.

Over that summer, problems arose with Shakyra’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and suddenly, she could no longer pay for school. While thousands of freshmen flocked to Nashville, Shakyra remained at home on Chicago’s West Side.

“I was crying every day,” Shakyra recalled. “I felt like a disappointment.”
For some, this might have been the end of a dream, but Shakyra had a secret weapon — her mentor, Jamila Trimuel, executive director of Ladies of Virtue’s Mentoring and Project Management program (LOV) — and Trimuel wasn’t ready to let Shakyra’s dream defer.

With Trimuel’s guidance, Shakyra began the [college] application process again, aiming to start school in January 2015. Every week, Trimuel, along with LOV volunteers Lucia Jeantine and Tatiana Roberts, helped Shakyra fill out applications and submit them to universities.

Trimuel, Jeantine, and Roberts not only helped Shakyra look up colleges and figure out what she had to do to get accepted, but they also . . . “took the time to call the colleges to make sure I had everything turned in,” Shakyra said.

In January 2015, Shakyra started at Western Illinois University, majoring in athletic training. She was recently accepted into the honors college and has a 3.6 GPA.  Now a sophomore, Shakyra still checks in with Trimuel at least once a week.

“She will not let anyone settle for less,” Shakyra said of her mentor, Trimuel.

Trimuel launched LOV in 2011 with the mission to “instill virtuous characteristics in young women, ages 10 to 18, while preparing them for college, a career, and adulthood.” Roughly 90 girls from the South and West Sides of the Chicago are currently enrolled.

LOV matches girls with like-minded mentors and focuses on teaching the girls valuable life lessons, such as leadership skills and social etiquette. LOV also provides internships and job-shadowing opportunities. According to Trimuel, 100% of participants ages 16 and older are employed during the summer and 94% of participants enroll in postsecondary institutions.

Trimuel believes it takes a village to raise a child. At LOV, mentors and mentees become more like sisters. Through hard work and commitment, these mentoring relationships bear fruit, and the girls go on to succeed.

“A lady of virtue knows that all things are possible through faith, perseverance, an opportunity and the willingness to succeed,” Trimuel said. “Shakyra pressed through her obstacles. She truly exemplifies what our organization is all about.”

This article is part of a series, produced through an initiative of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Illinois Mentoring Partnership, to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Author Alison Martin is a graduate student at Northwestern University.

Posted in: Profiles in Mentoring/By  in The Chronicle for Evidence Based Mentoring, January 31, 2016