Merlene Davis: Workshop encourages young women to 'Be Bold'

Tanya Torp, a community activist and co- founder of Be Bold, said the point of the workshops is "to set these young ladies up for success."
Tanya Torp, a community activist and co- founder of Be Bold, said the point of the workshops is "to set these young ladies up for success."

Recently, I was talking with a young male friend, trying to find out why he hadn't followed through with a young woman with whom he had gone out once.

Every communication between the two of them since their one date had been initiated by him, he said. He made it seem as if building a relationship the old-school way — male-launched and male-cultivated — was too hard.

I tried to explain that women didn't chase men in my day, which, granted, is out of style now. But in the world of nature, it is the male who must convince the female that he is worthy to be chosen.

He laughed at me. Women don't do that any more, he said.

Obviously one woman does.

When did the courting ritual go so askew? Are we women not teaching our girls to have more self-esteem?

"It is not what we are doing, but what we are not doing," said Tanya Torp, the program director of Step By Step, a mentoring and support program for teen mothers.

Torp said that one of her mentors, Ann Grundy, said that when she was growing up, people in her neighborhood would say, "I'm expecting great things from you," whenever she walked by.

"We have come to the point in our society where we are no longer expecting good things from our girls," Torp said.

Her husband, Christian Torp, a Lexington lawyer, had to talk with her mother, her pastor and her best friend before she allowed him to court her.

So it is not the courting ritual that has changed, but our value systems.

"When I look at Snapchat and Facebook, all I see from young ladies is the reposting of videos of girls twerking," Torp said. "That is something they think they should aspire to."

To help turn things around with young girls, ages 9 to 18, and with single mothers 24 and younger, Torp co-founded Be Bold, a nonprofit grass-roots organization, in 2011. Be Bold offers an annual day of workshops geared to empower girls and help them focus on their futures.

This year's events, scheduled for Saturday at the University of Kentucky Student Center, include workshops on entrepreneurship, a "body power hour" comprised of yoga and hip-hop dance, inspirational entertainment from area step teams and musicians, responsive art projects led by local artists, and a tour of the UK campus.

Plus, there will be cooking demonstrations focused on easy-to-make healthy snacks, conducted by Lexington Diner chef Ranada West-Riley, and WRFL radio host Dan Wu of The Culinary Evangelist and his daughter, Sofia. Wu was a contestant on season five of Master Chef.

Also, award-winning fashion designer Soreyda Benedit-Begley will lead a youth-focused fashion show, featuring pieces young girls have created from thrift-store finds.

Sally Warfield's daughter, Chloe, 12, attended Be Bold last year, and the transformation has been obvious.

"I noticed a definite difference in Chloe's confidence," Warfield said. "She is a bit introverted and shy, but I didn't want her to think her opinion doesn't matter or that she shouldn't speak out."

Meeting with other girls her age and listening to adults who had problems while growing up gave Chloe a fresh perspective, Warfield said.

It's the way the presenters and organizers approach the girls that made a difference. Instead of scaring them, organizers "treat these girls like they have sense enough to make their own decisions," Warfield said. "They treat them like they have a brain in their heads."

Warfield plans to send Chloe again this year, she said.

Torp won the 2013 Impact Award from the Bluegrass Alliance for Women after the first year's workshops. This year, she was awarded the 2014 Individual Champion of Diversity Award from the Lexington Urban League.

Sponsors for Be Bold include UK, Partners for Youth and Third Street Stuff. Volunteers and donations for the event are welcome.

The event is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The registration deadline is Wednesday. The cost is $5.

"We want to set these young ladies up for success," Torp said. "I want to show them this is possible."