JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Alisa Pollard-Seymore of Jacksonville saw a need in her neighborhood and decided to fill it.
"This is my stomping ground. This is my hood. Out East," she said, as she walked along Evergreen Avenue.
She has a heart for her old neighborhood in Jacksonville's lower eastside.
"I literally grew up two blocks down," she pointed down the road.
Pollard-Seymore used to work with young kids coming out of the juvenile detention center, but she wanted to reach kids before they got arrested, "to give girls skills and tools to make better decisions before they get into trouble."
So, she created a nonprofit program called Princess and Company, Inc.
She runs it in her old neighborhood.
"Princess and Company is a mentoring and enrichment program for girls kindergarten to 12th grade," Pollard-Seymore explained.
Some of the girls are from well-off families, and some are "in poverty and at risk," she said.
They all meet together one Saturday a month at the Christian Development Center on Evergreen Avenue.
"We provide activities, speakers come in, we provide lunch, and we go on field trips," she said.
Those field trips include activities such as horseback riding and a trip to the Biltmore Estate.
"I truly believe exposure and experiences allow you to know that you have different opportunities," Pollard-Seymore said. "When you grow up in a small community and you never get out," she paused. "We have girls who never crossed the bridge, the Mathews Bridge."
She continued, "A trip like the one to Biltmore lets them see. They're like, 'Oh my gosh! There are opportunities! There are different things that I would have never imagined.'"
Pollard-Seymore even teaches etiquette skills to the girls when they meet. She said it includes etiquette for meetings and dinners.
And no cell phones are allowed during the sessions.
"Alisa has a heart of gold," said Sabrina Patterson who nominated Pollard-Seymore to be a 12 Who Care recipient.
"I have watched these girls grow," Patterson said. "I’ve watched my own daughter grow. My daughter is an introvert. She doesn’t want to talk. But she lights up when we go to those sessions! I’m thinking, 'Is that my daughter?’"
Princess and Company, Inc. has changed the direction of dozens of girls' lives, by helping them get into college and plan beyond the harsh crime-ridden, impoverished reality around them.
"It encourages them and reminds them that they can be better than what they see," Patterson said.
"The goal is to have girls be confident in themselves," Pollard-Seymore said. "And to learn how to be leaders."
And so Pollard-Seymore has chosen to come back to her childhood neighborhood in order to help change the world, one girl at a time.