Event aims to set teen girls on right road

The “D.I.V.A. Academy: My BFF Conference” is designed to engage teen girls in interactive workshops.--SUBMITTED PHOTO

Local Christian entrepreneur Shelena Broaster, an anti-bullying expert/certified life coach, is hosting a citywide teen girl empowerment conference entitled: “D.I.V.A. Academy: My BFF” on Saturday, May 18, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Calvary Christian Church, 6000 E. Roosevelt Blvd.

This event is free, but teen girls must register online at www.divaacademy.eventbrite.com.

Broaster, 34, is the founder of “Shalena D.I.V.A.,” an organization dedicated to the uplifting of middle school and high school girls.

Under the umbrella of Shalena D.I.V.A, the organization has a broad menu of female-driven empowerment workshops and conferences, mentoring initiatives, online motivational and empowerment tips, a call-in hotline and public speaking engagements, all designed, according to Broaster, to “Unleash the D.I.V.A. within!”

“D.I.V.A. is an acronym for Discover, Invest, Value, Appreciate your God-given gifts and talents. That four-step process is what helped me, starting at the end of 2009, to turn my life around,” said Broaster.

The “D.I.V.A. Academy: My BFF Conference” is designed to engage teen girls in interactive workshops: healthy self-esteem and self-confidence, positive self-image, self-awareness through artistic expression, effective decision-making skills, goal-setting skills, better study habits and basic etiquette.

“(In 2009), I was very depressed, despondent, hopeless, and I really needed to get back on track. I wasn’t praying like I used to, I was backslidden, and the D.I.V.A. process, my four-step process, helped me to get back into fellowship and commune with the Lord. And I felt God was speaking to me, that I needed to share this process with others to help them, to not only live their lives, but to please God and to serve him in the process.”

Broaster did not always have an easy life. “I grew up in the housing projects, Bartram Village in Southwest Philadelphia. I didn’t have any positive role models around me. I was the smallest of four children, my mother wasn’t into education — none of my neighbors, no one. But my father told me, ‘One day you’re going to go to college.’ He told me that when I was about 5 years old. He used to take me to the Philadelphia Public Library, where he used to work. And every time I finished a book, he would give me a 50 cent (coin), so, that really made me want to read more.”

It was that incentive that helped Broaster develop a reading level that was far beyond her peer group’s.

Broaster was accepted into the elite Julia R. Masterman High School, and when she graduated she was offered a full academic scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania.

Instead, she elected to attend Duke University on a full scholarship. She desperately wanted to get away from Philadelphia, to put her family and neighborhood drama behind her.

“My father, I found out years later, was on drugs. But he planted that seed of education in me when I was five. In the housing project, none of my friends, no one talked about college.”

Broaster admits that some members of her family were involved in the drug game, and that placed her and other family members at risk to the dangers of the street life.

“My oldest brother was murdered at a crap game. They robbed him and they took $20. My stepfather, he sold drugs, he put us into harm’s way. I remember he got kidnapped by a rival drug gang, and they held me and my little brother at gunpoint. My life flashed before me — I was only 12.”

These, along with other family and external dramas, pushed Broaster to leave Philadelphia to startcollege life in a fresh, safe environment. She graduated from Duke in 2001, earning her bachelor’s degree in political science.

It was approximately four years ago that Broaster began her mission to empower other young girls to succeed. Broaster attends Calvary Christian Church, under the leadership of the Rev. Robert Fontell.

“The parable about the ten talents (Matthew 25:14-30), that’s what being a D.I.V.A. is all about. You discover what your talent is. (The teens) discover what their talents are, that they are gifts from God, and then they are prompted to invest in them. The Scripture, it tells you what to do.”

D.I.V.A. Academy is presented in secular and Christian formats. Broaster runs many D.I.V.A. Academy programs in area schools, aiming to turn around the behavior of at-risk young girls.

She has been featured on the Dr. Oz program, Women’s World magazine, Philly Hot 107.9FM and a host of online television and radio shows. She is also a regular small- business contributor to the International Women’s Entrepreneur Association. Her clients include: Wharton School of Business/University of Pennsylvania, American Society for Training and Development, American Paradigm Schools and Career Wardrobe.

To register for the “D.I.V.A. Academy: My BFF Conference” event, go to: http://www.divaacademy.eventbrite.com/. Contact Shalena Broaster directly at shalenadiva@gmail.com or phone (408) 430-3482. And for more information about Calvary Christian Church and its calendar of other ministry events, call: (215) 288-2880.

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