Cincinnati Herald / April 6, 2017
Travel opens new possibilities, says Tafrinda “T.J.” Smith, the Resource Coordinator at Mt. Airy Community Learning Center and the founder of Aspire! Girls Group for Mt. Airy’s 4th-6th grade girls. “They needed something to do,” Smith explains, and so she channeled that girl power energy into a new program, Aspire.

The girls meet and talk about everything from careers and academics to boys and bullying. Smith says that she was in high school when she got married, and wants her students to see that there are other options in life. Instead of gang life, these bright young women are talking about pursuing careers in medicine, law, education, zoology, fashion, and more. One of the young ladies has begun to write a book and aspires to be a published author.

Last year, Smith took her girls on a trip to Chicago. Some of them had never stayed in a hotel before. “We stayed in the Hilton on the Pier,” Smith says, explaining that exposure to places such as the Hilton is important. She laughs about one incident where one of the girls flooded the bathroom while taking a shower – it was her first time and did not know that the curtain had to go inside of the bathtub. Smith was relieved that the Hilton did not charge them for the damage. “That’s the advantage of staying in a nice hotel.” Smith laughed. Other highlights of the Chicago trip included a boat cruise, visits to the DuSable African American Museum, the Navy Pier, a concert, and museums.

In addition to the speaker series, Smith has a school sleepover planned, and a fundraising “Rock the Runway” fashion show, hip hop dance performance, and luncheon on April 22 at 11:30 a.m. at Mt. Airy Elementary School. Christie Kuhns, Esq., Vice President, UC Health, will be the special guest. The girls, as well as models from Inspire will model the fashions. Tickets are only $15. Vendor booths are available as well. Proceeds will help the girls to raise money for another trip –perhaps to Washington, D.C. For tickets and more information, contact Ms. T.J. Smith at (513) 363-3754.

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