MICHELLE HOLLINGER: “All the more reason to help set them up to win their first year,” said the program CEO. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE HOLLINGER

Miami Gardens, Fla. – Research refers to 9th grade as a “make or break” year for new high school students. It’s a big adjustment for 14-yearolds, who were the oldest at their middle schools, but when they arrive at high school, suddenly they’re the youngest.

“It’s a challenging year for all students who are new to high school, but it can be especially tough for Black girls, who face obstacles other students don’t typically encounter,” said Michelle Hollinger, Chief Worthiness Officer of The Institute for Worthy Living. “

To help get Black girls ready for such a pivotal period in their high school experience, Hollinger created PrepHERation, a seven-week group coaching program for Black girls that teaches important tools to help them successfully navigate the ninth grade.

“Black girls can face adultification, where some teachers, administrators and security personnel treat them like they’re older than they actually are because of their appearance or assumptions about their level of maturity,” Hollinger explained about a tendency for Black girls to receive stricter penalties and are less likely to be given the benefit of the doubt their non-Black peers can receive.

She said the significance of 9th grade even goes beyond that.

“Research says the grades most students earn in ninth grade mirror the grades they receive in the 11th, which is when they’re applying to college, so those grades are significant. All the more reason to help set them up to win their first year in high school.”

Hollinger said that the coaching program intentionally uses a group approach so that girls can see they’re not alone in some of the challenges they face, but also provides space for peerto-peer teaching and reinforcing the importance of sisterhood.

One group is available for girls who are being raised without a father, Hollinger said, "because there are factors those girls need to resolve to help them excel."

She added that by helping the girls strengthen their intangible qualities, such as worthiness, self-validation, courage and knowing the right type of language to use if they’re being adultified, they can focus more on their academics and enjoying their high school experience.

“The summer before the girls begin high school is the perfect time for them to participate in the program because it helps them enter school feeling more empowered because they know effective mental and emotional tools before they have to use them,” she explained.

Parents can learn more about the program, and pre-order Hollinger’s new book, “Sis, You’re Worth It: Seven Ideas for Manifesting Your Best Life,” by visiting theinstituteforworthyliving.com.