At age 15, Stephanie Jennings received a phone that would forever change her life. Her mother had been shot in the stomach by her boyfriend around 4am that morning while at a night club. Her mother, who died twice on the operating table, wasn’t given much hope from the doctors to live. She and her four siblings never thought that her mom’s boyfriend would take things this far and violent, even though he displayed controlling behavior.
“That’s what a lot of people have to understand, that they might not think it will end up that way but it can happen.” said Jennings, the now 18 year old senior who attends Miami Carol City Senior High School.
The horrific incident not only forced her family to bond together and stay strong, but it sparked a passion in Jennings to never see this happen to another female.
Jennings started a non-profit organization named Birthing Imperishable Diamonds (B.I.D.), in July 2009. As a volunteer for the Peace Be StillYouth Development Center, located in the recreational area of the Gardens Apartment complex (13180 Port Sid Road), Jennings decided to take the young ladies, ages 12 to 16, outside to get away from their younger siblings and do more “big kid” activities. She noticed that the girls enjoyed voicing their opinions and concerns about life around them, so she provided them with composition notebooks to write down their ideas and topics for the group to discuss. From these discussions, Jennings realized that some of the girls had been abused by their boyfriends or had witness domestic abuse in their homes. Growing up in a home where she witnessed domestic abuse from the age of 7, Jennings saw the need to help these young women to the path of righteousness. From these small discussions outside under a shady tree, grew a nonprofit organization that focuses on building self-esteem, female empowerment, and help out of teen domestic violence relationships.
“As far as teen domestic violence; it’s in our school it’s all around us, but no one really wants to talk about it.”Jennings said, “It [B.I.D.] is about birthing teen girls into strong imperishable diamonds; birthing them and transforming them into what they should be. They say diamonds are rare and unique and I use diamonds as a representation of what girls should be like.”
B.I.D. meets every Friday and Saturday of the week, from 5pm to 6:30pm, at the Garden Apartments and Every Wednesday at North Dade Middle School from 2:30pm to 3:40pm. The program provides picnics, seminars, and retreats for the young ladies to partake in along with guest speakers to group meetings, her mother plans to tell her story to the group, and specially planned field trips.
As a member of the Youth Advisory Board with the Domestic Violence Coalition, Jennings understands firsthand the importance of starting dialogue about domestic violence, so she arranged for the girls in her program to be a part of the 2010 Summer Groove’s Youth Summit, which is a part of the week-long Alonzo Mourning charity fundraising events. The girls were able to ask a panel of 12, which included celebrities, pro-athletes, business professionals, and their peers, questions about violence on all levels, which was this year’s topic.
Jennings said, “They were able to ask the panel in depth questions that they may not feel comfortable asking their parents… They were excited to ask some of their favorite celebrities about questions and concerns that they share.”
Jennings not only runs B.I.D., but she is the Vice President of Skills USA/ Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, Ladies of Distinction, African Alliance and is a Silver Knights candidate at her school. She also volunteers with four other organizations outside of school while holding down a part time job at B&A Traffic School, maintaining good grades to stay on the superior honor roll, and helping her mother take care of her very ill brother.
Alexandria Martin, her Research Methods Instructor at Miami Carol City Senior High school, said that Jennings is an under-rated student who doesn’t speak out much in class, but when is called upon has something profound to say. Martin, who has had the pleasure of having Jennings as a student for the past two years, says that she encourages her peers in a loving way and always gets her work done.
“She is very meticulous about getting every assignment done. Most students don’t have to deal with the struggles she has to deal with. She never comes with and excuse. She has a lot more struggles but yet she still meets the goal… She personifies an exemplary student because of that.” said Martin.
Jennings dreams of attending the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, next fall and major in social work or psychology. She also plans to continue to run B.I.D. from whatever school she may attend.