Dr. Cassandra Matthews, founder and executive director of Fertile Ground. Photo by JolyeToi Photography.
“Teach our girls to dream big.”
By Drew Miles
Each month we highlight a community program that aligns with the values of SoulVision Magazine. We believe engaging with one’s community is critical to fostering positive change in the world.
Fertile Ground was created to encourage and empower young women from their local communities. The purpose of the program is to provide its members with life opportunities and exposure through innovative educational workshops, authentic cultural arts activities, vital community service opportunities, and college tours. The five pillars of Fertile Ground are knowledge, character, curiosity, community, and achievement.
Dr. Cassandra Matthews is the founder and executive director of Fertile Ground. Her inspiration for creating the program was ignited by her mentor “Breezy” Bishop, her high school basketball coach. Breezy planted a seed in Dr. Matthews when she was one of her team members. Dr. Matthews wanted to do for others what her mentor had done for her, so Fertile Ground was created in 2003. “My goal is to teach our girls to dream with their eyes open. I want them to be able to see, touch, feel, question, and experience all that is possible for their lives,” Dr. Cassandra Matthews says.
Mentee Adrianna Ellison and mentor Marilyn Foust at the Fertile Ground Annual Banquet in May 2019. Photo courtesy of Fertile Ground.
Mentees in the program range from the 5th to 12th grades. They are nominated by teachers, parents/guardians, and community members. Mentees are required to attend an orientation session, submit a letter of interest along with recommendation letters to participate in the program. Lastly, they attend an interview alongside a parent or guardian. “Once a part of the program, mentees are matched with a trained mentor who is committed to being a stable, trustworthy, and positive role model in their lives,” she says. This relationship grows as mentees bond through monthly theme-based meetings and activities. Mentees also engage with their mentor at least once a month in between meetings. Fertile Ground has adjusted to COVID-19 by hosting activities, workshops, and meetings via Zoom twice per month.
In addition to mentorship activities, the mentees partake in fellowship with each other. Dr. Matthews believes in the fruit of genuine sisterhood through shared experiences. This approach develops a sense of community among the girls and the adults who mentor them, creating life-long bonds.
“My goal is to teach our girls to dream with their eyes open. I want them to be able to see, touch, feel, question, and experience all that is possible for their lives.” – Dr. Cassandra Matthews.
Fertile Ground will be expanding in the upcoming years. Dr. Matthews plans to establish additional chapters in Georgia, Maryland, Texas, and an international chapter in Ghana. “My African ancestry has inspired my desire to support the Afia Kobi Girls Senior High School in the Ashanti region with this program,” she says. Fertile Ground can help to shape the greatness that is already within these young women alongside a community of supportive mentors, friends, and volunteers.