Cheryl Ann Wadlington, founder and executive director of The Evoluer House, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the well-being and leadership of girls of color in the Philadelphia region, is one of 10 L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth in the U.S. for 2020.
The accolade earns the organization a $10,000 donation from L’Oréal Paris, with the possibility of receiving an additional $25,000 if Wadlington becomes the top national honoree after the online voting period closes November 27.
Founded in 2004, the Evoluer House equips and empowers girls of color with the essential tools to break cycles of intergenerational poverty. Wadlington said that a typical Evoluer House Girl usually lives at or below the poverty level, in environments scarred by violence, abuse, addiction, unemployment, and illness, and most likely is the first in her family to attend college. Over the years, the nonprofit has partnered successfully with Philadelphia’s and Camden’s governmental agencies to coordinate programming throughout the region.
“Considering the racial climate of social injustice and cultural change, it is really a unique time and I have to break it down,” Wadlington said. “Our girls, the girls that we serve, are the daughters of essential workers. Because, of course, we know the COVID pandemic has impacted the Black community the most, and we have been watching their loved ones die —and the girls are traumatized from that. Then we have to watch them go out and get a job to help be the breadwinner for the family, and then they catch the infection.”
“Racial injustice is an issue that the girls were working on dealing with before they came to the program, but now it’s like in their face,” she added. “This is like pressure on top of pressure: racial trauma and minority stress — and no child should have to be that resilient.”
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Wadlington speaks from personal experience, calling her upbringing “incredibly interesting and extraordinarily colorful.” As an incorrigible Black girl growing up in West Philadelphia, Wadlington was motivated to redirect her life, find her purpose, and never forgot the community that rallied to help her get her act together and achieve her dreams.
In 2015, Wadlington received a resolution recognizing her 11 years of service to young urban girls from President Barack Obama; in 2016, she was selected by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for her leadership and work.
Since the Evoluer House’s inception, nearly 2,000 girls have graduated from nonprofit’s research-based, gender-responsive, culturally-relevant programs — with 100% graduating high school on time and matriculating in college or other post-secondary studies. Many of them have gone on to earn advanced degrees.
Last year, the organization launched the compelling storytelling podcast, “Girl Truth: What Lens Are You Looking Through?” which features alumnae from the award-winning summer program, creating their own narratives and talking about things that are important to them.
The nonprofit received an emergency grant from Grantmakers for Girls of Color at the start of the pandemic, and Wadlington said that if she becomes the national honoree in the L’Oreal , she will use the $25,000 to build greater capacity at her nonprofit, while expanding programming to accommodate physical distancing.
“As a small grassroots nonprofit, winning the L’Oreal Paris Woman of Worth award means everything to us has put us in touch with a lot of people that we usually wouldn’t be able to reach so quickly,” Wadlington said. “It will elevate our mission around the world and amplify Black and brown girls’ life stories, and inspire them to let them know that one day they can become leaders of the world as well.”
2020 marks the fifteenth anniversary of L’Oreal’s philanthropic Women of Worth program. “This year has given us a greater appreciation and respect for those who dedicate their lives to serving their communities,” said Ali Goldstein, president of L’Oréal Paris USA. “That’s why it’s more important than ever that [this] platform continue to shine a spotlight on the tenacity and courage of women who are tackling injustice and channeling painful experiences into something truly beautiful and worthy.”
You can vote here once daily for the L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth through November 27.-30-
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