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Duo Helps Girls Grow into Leaders with ‘Embrace HER’

On Thursdays at Pembroke Academy, girls all over the school can be spotted wearing purple T-shirts adorned with butterflies that read “Embrace HER.” The acronym HER doesn’t refer to an individual, but rather “Helping Evolve Resilience” as part of the mentoring program started by Social Worker Ta’Kyla Christian and first grade teacher Michele Turner that helps girls show acts of kindness, build leadership, develop life skills, and take part in community service.

Turner and Christian started "Embrace HER"
Michele Turner, left, and Ta’Kyla Christian started the “Embrace HER” program at Pembroke.
Christian and Turner’s goal is to have the program prepare students for challenges they might face in high school and beyond by providing a safe space that they can look to for support and guidance.
“That’s the best part about it, just building those relationships with the scholars,” Turner said.
The program came about from Christian’s goal of starting a mentoring program. Turner mentioned that she has a degree in psychology, and the after-school group was born soon after.
“Embrace HER” started with 15 students in fifth to eighth grade. Once the girls got to know each other and opened up after a few sessions, others wanted to join. While Christian and Turner help students build self-esteem, they also hold them accountable not just for what happens during their time in the program but also in school.

Students with "Embrace HER" swag.
“We check in with their teachers, we check in on their behaviors, we also hold them accountable to that as well,” Christian said. “I think it gives them a sense of responsibility knowing that ‘Hey, I know I have to be on my best behavior, but I also have someone else that’s not a teacher, that’s not my mom checking in on me to see how things are going to give me that encouragement to keep me grounded.’”
Through one-on-one conversations or working concession stands at basketball games, the program gives students a setting away from home to talk if needed. It lets them know – through Christian, Turner, or each other – that there is someone who cares, even if they might not feel like there is.
"Embrace HER" doing volunteer work.

Their efforts have helped Pembroke to be ranked the No. 1 school in Detroit and outperform the district for three years. Turner has been at the school since 2019 and started as a paraprofessional. Christian arrived in May 2023 after her social work experiences in residential facilities and foster care. The transition to school social work is one she said she wishes she had done earlier.
“I’m just working with different students in different age ranges, different grade levels and being able to know that I hold a special place to them,” Christian said. “I just really love doing what I do here and knowing that I am not just someone who is here to do a job. This is what I love to do. It's my passion and the response and feedback that I get from students, teachers … I feel as if this is the place that I need to be.”

Keep up the excellent work, Ms. Christian and Ms. Turner!

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About Pembroke Academy
Pembroke Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Detroit, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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