You know what it feels like to have a safe place to share your struggles? A community of women who welcome you as you are and support you to get where you want to be? An uplifting environment with the tools and resources to help you go further, be a leader, build you up and help you succeed?
This is what Christy Johnston and Jeanette Sibley envisioned for the local community when they sat down at Taziki’s for a quick lunch in November 2016 and set a plan to change the lives of young women.
Christy, a single mother with two children, was born and raised in the Bossier area and grew up with a tumultuous and unstable childhood. She was born to high school addicts, and raised between her mother, her father and her grandparents. Throughout her childhood she lived in 27 different homes, including a stint at the local Young Women’s Christian Association.
Afraid to disappoint her mother and tell her she didn’t want to live with her, at 14 Christy tried to take her own life as a way to get out. Christy was then adopted by another family member and remembers pretending to be a “normal” teenager to just blend in during high school.
Soon though, Christy became pregnant and married the father of her child. After high school, she began working in retail sales positions. From here she worked her way up the corporate ladder including positions in training, management, hiring and promoting teams and brands and she acquired many awards and accolades along the way. Because of her past, in essence, she spent most of time in these positions seeking out driven women like herself, who she could mentor and help get to the next step in their life, something she wishes she had when she was younger.
Now, Christy has a very successful long-term career in sales and marketing and is also an entrepreneur. She has partnered with Bee Hippie, local bath and body brand, to launch Queen Bee Hippie, a natural beauty and hair care line. Her passion is to help young women develop confidence and self love, empowering them to develop leadership abilities and find independence.
Jeannette, originally from San Diego, California, has always had a passion for helping young women. She left home at 16 and lived out of a truck until she found out she was pregnant. She then moved back home before having her first child at 17. She married at 19, and by age 22, she had filed bankruptcy. After several trying years, at 27 she took a financial course and learned financial independence. This allowed her the freedom to leave her failing marriage. She bought a home in 2006, and after the market crash in 2008, she found herself with a failing business and lost her home, moving into an apartment.
She refused to allow circumstances to define her, and found a coach and business mentor who encouraged her to keep pushing toward her goals. Eventually she became 1 of the 2 short sale specialists in the Shreveport-Bossier City area. Jeannette is now happily married with 4 sons, and is a highly successful Real Estate professional, a productivity coach and a licensed Insurance agent. Her goal is to provide mentorship to give young women the tools to learn the essential money management skills needed for financial independence.
So back to that lunch at Taziki’s. Christy and Jeannette have been friends for over 20 years and have shared the same passion of empowering women, but only then at that lunch did they make a pact to make their vision a reality. In May 2017, Altered was launched.
Though they are two powerhouses, this was not done alone. They knew they needed a tribe of powerhouses along with them. Christy and Jeanette reached out to women in the community who they knew exemplified the strong characteristics needed to add value to the organization and to the mentorship program. This team is now the dynamic group of ambassadors who bring their unique backgrounds and skill sets to the organization. The Altered ambassadors are the tribe of dedicated and diverse women who are passionate about developing confident and empowered young women.
So what exactly is Altered NWLA? Altered NWLA is a local non-profit organization that provides mentorship and empowerment programs for young women between the ages of 16-25 in the Shreveport-Bossier City area. The mission is to provide a network for young women to access information, tools, and resources needed to ALTER their path in life. The name Altered represents women being/feeling ACCOUNTABLE. LOVED. TRANSFORMED. EMPOWERED. RESILIENT. EDUCATED. DRIVEN and is a collective summary of our statement of affirmation that “I Am.” How powerful is that?!
The curriculum is designed to develop and encourage leadership ability, define and achieve personal goals, teach financial literacy, explore individual career options, research and seek continuing education, as well as develop basic life skills needed for a solid foundation to build a successful and happy future. These courses dive deeper into these areas and are instructed by volunteers or local leaders and mentors. Each student attends bi-monthly group classes and has their own mentor who is directly accessible one-on-one. This one-on-one and class interaction with the mentors demonstrates resilience and helps the young girls understand they are not alone and someone will be by their side through it all. Moreover, this organization is open to women of all walks of life and is free of charge.
Inspiring young women to believe in themselves, to reach higher and dream bigger is Altered’s passion, because when young women are given a chance, they can impact the community. Altered lifts and supports young women from all backgrounds to build a better and brighter future not only for themselves, but for all women in our community.
The organization seeks to find the future CEOs for our community, the world-changers, the speakers and the leaders. Even though Altered is still in the infancy stages, they have already made huge impacts in some of the young ladies’ lives. These ladies willingly find a way to show up twice a month early on a Saturday morning to be loved on, filled up and supported.
Here is what a few of the ladies had to say:
Kayleigh, a 16-year-old mentee, said, “Altered has helped me come out of my shell a lot and showed that there are more ways of life then just getting high on a bunch of drugs. I feel as if before Altered, I was in a mindset where drugs were the only thing I cared about. All my money went to drugs and this program has motivated me to better myself and actually want to take care of myself.”
Nicole, a 25-year-old mother in the program, said, “Altered has helped me in so many ways… I have learned that self love is so important for a healthy and independent you. Without self-love, you kind of leave the door open for toxic people to walk into your life. I’ve also learned that with the right support group you can move mountains.”
Imagine the community-changing possibilities! Altered’s first year has been greater than anticipated and will continue to grow. With this growth Altered will be seeking additional ambassadors, mentors, sponsors and students for the program. If you would like to register a student or you are interested in becoming a mentor, please visit us at alterednwla.org for more information.
Written by Mandy Smith and Turaeza Lopez-Hose