Successful Women Achieving Goals, or SWAG, is a non-profit organization seeking to close the educational gaps in the city of Philadelphia. Black Americans make up about 52 percent of the student populations within the 56-district run schools, yet in 2018 the graduation rate was only 69 percent. These statistics make it necessary for Philadelphia to implement college-readiness programs that uplift students. SWAG is one program that focuses on uplifting Black women in all those aspects since its start in 2015. Their mission statement states, “To enlighten and encourage young women to achieve their goals. Promote continued mentorship for successive generations.”
The organization’s founder Taurell Butts, started it with only ten girls as a senior in college. “I noticed we didn’t have the same opportunities as Caucasian young women and I wanted to actually provide the girls guidance to achieve their goals,” Butts said. Her time at her undergraduate led from helping 10 to now well over 700 Black women and over 200 Black families.
“It’s a great start, but we can definitely reach more people,” she continued.
She has spent her time providing services like giving the girls mentors, after school programs, and holding fundraisers. Each mentor meets the interest of the students based on their goals. Also, the proceeds go to buying laptops for the young women and awarding them with scholarships for college.
SWAG’s Coordinator, Mykella Mitchell, helps with the college workshops. She prepares the girls for college readiness in relation to what fits for them. Essay writing, SAT/ACT practice, resume editing and FAFSA workshops are available to these young women. Mitchell wants to give back, because like Taurell these resources were not available to her either.
“I went to a PWI, I know specifically that students in the city don’t get as much funding and education that they need more support just because of where we are and where in taxes go,” she said. “I would probably say there are definitely more than like 60 to 70 percent of our girls going to college,” she added.
“We turn to the girls but also turned to the community because without our community this organization would be standing on its two feet right now it really helps and keeps us going in the girls that continue to come back that makes all of our work worthwhile,” she continued.
SWAG also offers group therapy sessions for the girls. The racial disparities to Black mental health are an ongoing conversation. Only five percent of practicing psychologists are Black Americans. Monica Peay Matthew, one of the cycling therapists that offer their services to SWAG, loves what she does. She works another job as a mobile supervisor therapist, but counsels the girls in-group sessions. They are free to talk about anything, and often follow one topic that dives in multitudes of different conversations. The girls are given a free space, building bonds with one another.
“I definitely enjoy talking to them, even if I’m tired from work, sessions with them are a breeze,” she said.
The outlook for SWAG
The future of SWAG looks promising, they are still going strong despite being virtual due to the pandemic and Covid-19. They have upcoming events this month, as well as a clothing drive for the community and a fundraiser next month. They had a clothing drive earlier last month and were able to give clothes from Urban Outfitters (one of their sponsors) to older women in the community.