In celebration of Black History Month, Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia would like to recognize two employees from the Southwest Family Service Center, Ms. Lola Decarlo-Coles and Ms. Nadiyah Vance, who work tirelessly to empower young people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds.

Last month, the women partnered with Soroptomist International SI Five Points Magenta to host the first Women and Girls’ Leadership and Empowerment Symposium. Nearly fifty young women and girls identified as at risk for domestic violence, sexual assault, and homelessness attended the event.

Founded in 1929, Soroptomist International SI Five Point Magenta’s name signifies “best of women.” It is part of a global volunteer organization made up of 86,000 business and professional women from 124 countries. Members are dedicated to helping improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.

Ms. Vance said her and Ms. Decarlo-Coles “wanted to put a positive spin on the negative attention on women and girls’ rights that is dominating the political world,” said Ms. Vance. “We didn’t want our women and girls to forget that we are all important, powerful, and beautiful.”

The symposium aimed to inspire women and young girls to achieve personal goals. Guest speakers from Einstein Hospital, Tomorrow’s Girls, Sisters United in Christ, NRG, and Pathways Teen Shelter Services presented different educational options and career paths. In addition, the women and girls enjoyed live entertainment, praise dancing, poetry readings, lunch and crafts.

Ms. Vance said, “The symposium inspired the young girls to be friendly to one another and be their ‘sister’s keepers,’ to help each other with support instead of conflicting with one another over vain characteristics.” In addition, Ms. Vance said, “it showed the young ladies that we have to support each other as women no matter what your race, because we are all the same under the laws in society.”

The CSS Southwest Family Service Center is the first point of contact for individuals, families, and parishes seeking assistance in the Southwest section of Philadelphia. It is one of seven such centers located throughout the five-county metropolitan area comprising the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The Southwest Family Service Center offers several programs to strengthen families and the community, including: Pregnancy and Parenting for mothers; Mary& Martha Ministry; Aid for Friends; Cooking Matters; and BenePhilly.