MIAMI — It was an early call for the girls from The Embrace Girls Foundation: 8 a.m. report time, 9 a.m. Tea Time. On the very first of day of summer break, they were up before dawn to prepare for their signature event that in the past has featured the famous and even infamous.
The June 10 event featured newly appointed United Teachers of Dade President Fedrick Ingram, the first African American and youngest to hold the position in the 50-year history of the union.
Perhaps that, coupled with a male presence at the normally women-driven event, is what made this tea a particularly special one for the elementary and middle school girls who hung on Ingram’s every word.
“I really liked that he told us many times how beautiful and smart we are and how important it is for us know and believe that,” said 10-year-old Jeanette Dawson.
Ingram, who grew up in poverty in Miami’s inner-city, pointed out the importance of having values, being obedient especially at home, and how impressed he was with the girls’ fancy remodeled classroom.
“Both my parents and I attended this very school, Lenora B. Smith Elementary, then, Allapattah Elementary, but they didn’t have a beautiful room like this to come to nor did I, let alone travel and meet the many famous people you have,” said Ingram, referencing the girl’s newly renovated classroom they fondly refer to as “Glo’s Girl Power! Room,” donated by Gloria and Herb Barker of Barker Animation and Art Gallery and their celebrity Tea Parties.
The once shy Ingram — largely because he stuttered throughout his elementary school years — recalled how difficult it was for him growing up to become the first member of his family to graduate with a post-secondary degree.
“It was hard but I overcame. I had parents who gave me one of their greatest gifts, their love and their belief in me, and that is what I see here in this room with this organization,” said Ingram, who noted that he was impressed with the girls’ social, communication and etiquette skills.
“This is one of the greatest highlights of my job,” he said, “to witness personally, the results of positive parenting, school engagement and community organizations coming together to empower and uplift our kids — especially our girls.”
The organizers called it an awesome experience for the girls, whose upcoming tea with celebrity chef Carla from The Chew is set for Saturday, July 13.
To learn more about The Embrace Girls Foundation’s afterschool programs and camps visit embracegirlpower.org