Los Angeles, CA — Successfully navigating four years of college at one of the nation’s most well-known universities can be a challenge. Now imagine adding mentoring at-risk and other girls to the juggle of classes and studying.

That is exactly what Ashly Davis and 39 of her contemporaries at USC have done through an organization created 12 years ago called Rites of Sisterhood (ROS).

“The main focus is the weekly Saturday sessions. We invite the mentees onto campus to participate in a year-long rite of passage, and sessions include things like yoga, sex education, pamper-me days; different things to get them thinking and feeling good about themselves,” explained Davis, who said the organization was formed by a group of women students (most of whom were local) who wanted to establish a way to give back to their community.

ROS targets girls from 12 to 17 years old from South Los Angeles, and Davis said most of their students come by word of mouth, from their website and through their contacts in the local school districts.

“We do have an application process, which is more of away to gauge where they are in their lives, and why they want to be in the program, and what they want to get out it,” said Davis noting that they typically accept everyone who applies.

While the organization, which works with 30 to 40 girls a year, has traditionally featured primarily African American girls, ROS has just started a new initiative called Sisterhood is Color Blind to make room for other young girls.

The way the program works, is that each girl is matched with a mentor, and an informal relationship is created.

Davis, who has been a mentor four years, said the pairs do any number of things: “We make sure grades are okay; make sure if they have a boy friend, that’s OK, and we stay in contact with the parents. That’s the informal part.”

Davis helped her mentee prepare for the prom, and even let the young woman walk across the stage with her when she graduated from USC at the beginning of May.

The formal portion requires mentors to come each week for the Saturday sessions, and to contact their mentee at least once a week.

Like any college-based organization making sure that there is continuity from one year to the next can be a challenge, and that is particularly true this year, said Davis because the entire executive board was composed of seniors like herself, who graduated in May.

“We started in February trying to target people for the organization, to lead the organization. And we started something new this year: co-presidents. That’s something we would like to see in terms of establishing a legacy and having someone in the position who can have an impact for more than one year.”

Since the organization was founded, Davis estimates they have impacted the lives of about 200 girls, and one young lady from the first group mentored has even come back and served as a mentor herself.

One of the most memorable transformations, Davis has seen ROS make in a mentee occurred a couple years ago.

“We got one girl, who did not speak at all. She came with her cousin, and if she needed to speak or had something to say, her cousin would say it for her. It took a full year before she would finally say anything. She was in the program three years, and became one of the most outspoken girls in the group,” recalled Davis about how the sisterhood helped ease the young girl’s acute shyness.

Because ROS is an approved campus organization, some of its funding and in-kind services (such as food) come from USC, but the rest of the financial underwriting comes from fundraisers, and the few donations ROS receives.

To get more information about the organization, visit the group’s website at: http://www-scf.usc.edu/~ros/.

To make a donation, send a check payable to Rites of Sisterhood c/o CBCSA, 3601 Trousdale Parkway, Suite 415, MC: 4899, Los Angeles, CA 90089 or e-mail the group at ros@usc.edu.