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Apparel nonprofit aims to break barriers to higher education

Black Girl Advocate's founder Shamaria Jordon is hoping to take a group of young women to the Washington D.C. area in February for a college and culture tour.

MINNEAPOLIS — Ionna Johnson's first time on a plane was last year in April, on her way to Nashville.

"I thought it was going to be scarier than what it was," Johnson said with a laugh. "It actually wasn't."

Johnson was there last year on a college and culture tour. The trip was organized by Shamaria Jordan, the founder of Black Girl Advocate.

Jordan explained that she never wanted to hear a young Black girl say, "Oh I can't come because my family can't afford [the trip]."

To that, she said, "that you can come and experience this change so that you can begin to change the trajectory of your family."

Jordan's nonprofit is a fashion retailer that sells hoodies, sweatshirts and other items like tote bags. The proceeds fund these hope-to-be yearly college tour trips to different parts of the U.S. 

Young women can sign up for the mentorship program that Black Girl Advocate offers. 

"And the mentorship program is a program for Black girls to come and figure out what they want to do with their life and where they want to go," Jordan explained. "And help be that guide for them in necessary decision making times." 

Jordan said sometimes the mentorship is as intimate as helping a girl out with relationship problems, finding her a way to get her driver's license, or to just be with her during tough times. She also said she tries to help girls out with fees, like college application fees or standardized test fees.

"Before I met Shamaria, I wasn't really thinking about what I wanted to do after high school," Johnson said. "I wasn't thinking about my future and she — I heard her story in life, where she came from what she went through, and I thought if she can do it, I can too. That made me want to go to college."

Jordan also said she created Black Girl Advocate to fill a void for Black girls, especially in Minnesota.

"There are Black women who are very successful in Minnesota but they're not accessible to the average person," she said. "So that makes it very hard for a lot of Black girls to see change, or see ambition for themselves when they're not in proximity to Black women who are successful."

Which is why Jordan also makes an effort to arrange visits with Black business owners and other prominent Black women the girls draw inspiration from on the tours.

She said she is hoping she can open doors, not just for college, but for a shift in paradigm. 

"I just wanted their perspectives of themselves to be changed," Jordan said. "The way they see themselves and their ability in what they can do, and just like the access they have — or could have — if they could position themselves to learn and grow. That's like the biggest thing."

Jordan's next trip to the Washington D.C. area is planned for Feb. 19, 2023. If you would like to donate, you can find the link here. 

Jordan also explained, there are other ways to give. If you would like to volunteer your time to share a skill that you might have that might be helpful to young women (like resume building or public speaking), you can contact the organization here.

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