Earlene Lezama-Taylor started a group to help young girls in Southeast Queens.
BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Once a teenage girl who often strayed from the path due to bad decisions, Earlene Lezama-Taylor created Complete Girlz Inc., a non-profit organization with a mission to support, encourage and motivate young women, so that they do not go down the same roads as its founder.
“I had church as a support system and I had my family, but I still made some bad decisions,” Lezama-Taylor said. “But when outside people talk to you, you listen more than you would listen to your family.”
Lezama-Taylor experienced this first-hand when she found herself switching gears after meeting with her Springfield Gardens High School counselor, who knew that if she did not change her ways, she would not graduate. Her counselor not only ensured that Lezama-Taylor took afterschool and night school classes so that she would graduate on time, but he also convinced her to go to college. Previously, she had been set against the idea.
Lezama-Taylor attended New York City Technical College in Brooklyn, majoring in arts and advertising design, and Katherine Gibbs Business School, where she majored in secretarial science.
The assistance given to her by her counselor inspired Lezama-Taylor to be a mentor for other young girls. After more than 10 years of personally mentoring young people and more than 20 years in the world of business, Lezama-Taylor launched Complete Girlz.
Coming from a deeply religious background, Lezama-Taylor decided to incorporate her faith with her mentorship.
“When you’re complete, you have the whole package,” Lezama-Taylor said. “It’s like when you’re at church and you recite, ‘In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’
What I aim to do is work on the girl as a whole. I want to ensure that they are complete in mind, body, soul and spirit. So, we make sure that we provide tools that would hit every area in their lives. Whether it is fitness or mental skills, we will help so that these girls can present themselves completely, making them complete girls.”
Currently located at the South Jamaica Library on Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, Complete Girlz holds classes that provide hands-on training for young women, so that they can see the possibility of becoming business owners and successful entrepreneurs, both during afterschool hours and on Saturdays.
Some of the courses the young girls can take are etiquette classes, leadership and entrepreneur classes, fashion courses, self-esteem building, public speaking, philanthropy, film making many others.
“Whatever they need to be more productive and successful, we have,” Lezama-Taylor said.
Lezama-Taylor said that she chose Jamaica to launch Complete Girlz, not because she lives in the neighborhood, but because she feels that the organization is something from which the community could benefit.
“It’s a hard town and I thought it would be fitting to have a program like this,” Lezama-Taylor said. “It’s free and it’s something the community needs. We can both be part of the change and see the change.”
When Complete Girlz, Inc. first launched in 2015, it started by assisting girls between the ages of 12 and 18 years, but after receiving inquiries from younger girls, the organization extended the age range.
“The younger they are, the better because we could shape their mind early on,” Lezama-Taylor said.
And since the organization found that girls were having trouble post high school, seeking help with finding jobs and enrolling into college, the organization again extended its age range from 10 to 24 years of age.
The organization has had such a positive impact on the community that when girls get in trouble, schools, churches and community residents often refer them to Complete Girlz.
“The girls are so excited because they are going out and learning new things,” Lezama-Taylor said. “We love them. I love them and I treat them like they’re my kids. They call me and text me. We’re like a little family.”
Lezama-Taylor, who remains in the background of the organization, is not only passionate about the young women of Queens. With girls traveling from Brooklyn and Harlem to attend Complete Girlz, she said she would like to open another location.
“We love what we do— we aren’t just talking, we’re actually making a change,” Lezama-Taylor said.
At the end of the month, Public Advocate Letitia James will pay a visit to Complete Girlz for a public speaking class.
“Just having the public advocate attend one of our classes is a lesson in itself,” Lezama-Taylor said. “When we were discussing the idea of her coming to our class during Women’s History Month, the girls were doubtful, but this shows them to push and to be persistent.”
The course will address self-esteem and confidence, in addition to James answering questions about her transition from city councilwoman to public advocate.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org