partner stories

Glitter Sisters

Glitter Sisters

Glitter Sisterms team photo

Nicole Cush, Principal of Asheville’s School of Inquiry and Life Sciences (SILSA), is an expert in social-emotional learning. When she observed behavioral struggles between young women of color, she recognized an opportunity to help the girls strengthen their social-emotional skills and increase positive social and academic outcomes. Equipped with a deep love for her students and her own lived experience, Principal Cush created the Glitter Sisters to serve as a safe space for girls aged 15-18 to navigate personal growth, collaboration, and professional development. 

Cush recognized a trend, supported by a growing number of studies, in which black and brown girls receive inadequate academic, social, and psychological support in educational settings. Further, they often experience a unique and pervasive combination of gender and race-based discrimination that is demonstrated as the policing of body and tone, tokenization, cultural erasure in the curriculum, and the gatekeeping of grades and opportunities. (Leath, et al. 2021)   

“It’s difficult for some people to understand what baggage these kids are carrying. You have to be patient, kind, even to those who demonstrate the least amount of lovability. They probably are the ones who need it the most!” she says. “The thing about Glitter, just like my students, when you put them together, no matter the color, they all shine.” 

Initially, the Glitter Sisters would meet once a week during their 20-minute homeroom period. This space was dedicated to expressing vulnerability, engaging with social-emotional learning, holding difficult conversations, and developing relationships. However, after the girls participated in a soulful, three-hour art therapy session hosted by NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green, Cush realized that the initial framework didn’t allot enough time to explore these practices as deeply as she felt was necessary. In response, she expanded the program into after-school hours to increase contact time with the girls. Then, when Black Asheville Town Hall held a meeting to elevate the voices and concerns of local youth, youth speakers expressed a common desire for support from therapists, coaches, and mental health professionals “who looked like them.”  

With this feedback, Cush used a 2020 Racial Equity Community Grant from Dogwood to expand the scope of the Glitter Sisters to services from Black and Brown mental health professionals, social workers, and art therapy providers. Coupled with professional development opportunities, field trips, recreational events, and educational resources such as scholarships for graduating seniors, the Glitter Sisters program serves as a critical support system to increase positive outcomes and experiences for black and brown girls who have historically been marginalized in educational settings. 

“Glitter Sisters was created my freshman year and I have been a part of it ever since. It’s crazy to look back and see how much this group impacted my life,” said Porsha Carter, 2022 SILSA graduate and president of Glitter Sisters. “The Glitter Sisters program has created a safe environment at school targeted toward Black women, but we have always been open to a diverse group. This group has helped our Black women feel more confident in ourselves, our skin, our emotions, and our beautiful voices that deserve to be heard. Glitter Sisters makes sure we know that.”

Glitter Sisters was created my freshman year and I have been a part of it ever since. It’s crazy to look back and see how much this group impacted my life.

– Porsha Carter, 2022 SILSA Graduate and President of Glitter Sisters

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Health & Wellness | Goal 4

Increase Access to Behavioral Health and Substance Use Prevention and Treatment

Support programs and networks that reduce deaths, treat addiction, and prevent first use

Objective 4.1: Reduce opioid overdose mortality throughout the region

Objective 4.2: Reduce untreated behavioral health and substance use disorder in disproportionately affected communities

Objective 4.3: Prevent and reduce behavioral health issues and substance use (tobacco, alcohol, illicit and prescription drugs) in youth

Health & Wellness | Goal 3

Address Health Disparities

Help reduce disparities based on race, location, education and income factors

Objective 3.1: Improve health outcomes for women and infants in rural and low-income communities and communities of color

Objective 3.2: Reduce the prevalence of common chronic health diseases in disproportionately affected communities

Objective 3.3: Increase effectiveness of health care through delivery of culturally aligned services

Health & Wellness | Goal 2

Increase Access to Whole-Person Health Care

Invest in integrated heath care with seamless connections to supportive services

Objective 2.1: Increase the number of people with affordable health insurance coverage

Objective 2.2: Increase the available workforce for primary and allied health care services

Objective 2.3: Increase access to comprehensive and integrated care

Objective 2.4: Increase access to community-based services in low-income, elderly and rural communities

Health & Wellness | Goal 1

Support and Build Healthy Communities

Support communities that promote healthy living and resiliency and help mitigate the impact of trauma, isolation and stress on individuals and families, especially those experiencing poverty

Objective 1.1: Decrease adverse experiences (ACEs and traumatic violence) and improve individual and family resiliency

Objective 1.2: Increase access to community environments that promote healthy living and social connectedness across the age continuum

Economic Opportunity | Goal 4

Foster Entrepreneurship

Support a well-funded, sustainable, competitive entrepreneur and small business ecosystem throughout the region

Objective 4.1: Increase the number of Person of Color (POC)-led small businesses throughout the region

Objective 4.2: Increase the number of rural small businesses throughout the region

Economic Opportunity | Goal 3

Build Economic Ecosystems

Help build a regional economic ecosystem that supports increased creation/retention of jobs and business ownership

Objective 3.1: Improve access to higher-paying jobs throughout the region, targeting the lowest income populations

Objective 3.2: Increase and retain quality jobs

Objective 3.3: Stimulate economic growth, catalyzing businesses and revenue

Economic Opportunity | Goal 2

Promote Work Readiness

Help build a skilled workforce with the knowledge and technical abilities to excel in a wide range of industry employment opportunities that provide a competitive, sustainable wage

Objective 2.1: Close the educational attainment gap in WNC, staying on pace with regional and county-specific projections (myFutureNC 2030).

Economic Opportunity | Goal 1

Develop a Comprehensive Data Resource

Source, analyze and share a comprehensive, county-by-county data set that paints a full picture of work readiness, economic development and entrepreneurial needs and opportunities specific to Western North Carolina

Education | Goal 3

Support Higher Education Career Readiness

Work in tandem with Economic Opportunity Strategic Priority to invest in career readiness at the community college and university levels

Objective 4.1: Close the educational attainment gap in WNC, staying on pace with regional and county-specific projections (myFutureNC 2030).

Education | Goal 2

Improve K-12 Education

Support K-12 learning experiences with the resources and sustainability to provide an excellent academic and social-emotional education, so that all students graduate ready for college or career

Objective 2.1: Address teacher workforce challenges

Objective 2.2: Equip families of students to support academic growth and social-emotional health

Objective 2.3: Increase capacity of partners to provide supports and services, particularly for children facing challenges related to poverty, systemic racism, being differently abled or English language learners

Education | Goal 1

Improve Early Childhood Education Ecosystem

Invest in an improved early childhood education ecosystem with the resources and sustainability to provide developmentally appropriate, affordable and accessible education and care to support ages birth to five, so that all children in WNC enter kindergarten ready to learn

Objective: Address early childhood educator workforce challenges

Education | Goal 4

Develop a Comprehensive Landscape Study

Source, analyze and share a comprehensive set of publicly available data that provides a regularly updated, county-by-county picture of access, workforce and student outcomes in early childhood education and K-12 education specific to Western North Carolina

Housing | Goal 5

Use Impact Investments to Create Affordable and Workforce Housing

Loans, guarantees, and other financial tools to leverage funding opportunities

Housing | Goal 4

Create and Preserve Housing Units for Persons Below 50% of the Median Income

Increase affordable housing for lowest-income individuals and families

Objective 4.1: Create rental units for households below 50% of the median income

Objective 4.2: Help families pay no more than 30% of their income on housing

Objective 4.3: Create and preserve communities in a way that is representative of the WNC natural landscape

Housing | Goal 3

Create and Preserve Senior Housing

Support age-appropriate resources in affordable and workforce units, rental and owned

Objective 3.1: Create needed rental and homeownership opportunities for seniors

Objective 3.2: Incorporate supportive services in rental housing developments

Objective 3.3: Increase use of universal design in development

Housing | Goal 2

Create and Preserve Supportive Housing Rental Units

Invest in housing with sustainable supports for physical and mental health and wellbeing

Objective 2.1: Create new supportive housing

Objective 2.2: Preserve existing supportive housing

Objective 2.3: Leverage state and federal funds

Single story home in the midst of being build with 3 volunteers helping.

Housing | Goal 1

Support Healthy and Safe Revitalization Opportunities

Support healthy and safe revitalizations that work against displacement and gentrification, preserve home ownership and create generational wealth.

Objective 1.1: Revitalize Neighborhoods

Objective 1.2: Repurpose existing structures to minimize environmental impact

Objective 1.3: Support home ownership