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SAN DIEGO — Inspiring young Black girls to be leaders in the community is the primary mission of a San Diego-based nonprofit.

What started as a breakfast talk for foster sisters in southeast San Diego is now a thriving leadership academy for girls of color.

“DETOUR is my love letter to the community,” said Tinesia Conwright, executive director of the nonprofit.

DETOUR, which stands for Depositing Empowerment Through Outreach and Urban Development, helps girls develop self-esteem, self-love and self-empowerment.

“My confidence, it just went up and it really gave me the boost I needed and I got more involved in my community than ever,” student Jayla White said. “I really feel like I’m a part of something special.”

Conwright’s goal is to make sure the girls have big sisters to help them through the challenges of life and home.

“You don’t see a lot of traditional households,” Conwright said. “You may see a lot of girls being raised by grandmother, aunt, foster parents even. So that’s the one issue and two, primarily in communities of color, girls have to take more responsibility at a younger age.”

She knows these struggles well because she’s been through it.

“That was my story. I’m the oldest of many siblings,” Conwright said. “There’s so many and my mom had to depend on me when she went to work, so I was taking care of my younger siblings.”

Tinesia learned how to mentor her foster sisters and would go on to mentor more than 1,000 girls though her academy. She teaches them life skills and lessons that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.

“Where we meet with the girls every single week to talk about healthy communication, healthy relationships, mental health, surviving high school, surviving college, all of those life skills and just general advice that you would get from a bigger sister or an older auntie,” Conwright said.

Sadly, many girls of color don’t get that. But Conwright’s program FANCY (Focused and Naturally Confident Youth) teaches them they have what it takes to succeed in college and in their future careers.

“I’ve been exposed to so many different things. I can really say I’ve had my hand in everything,” student Kaijah Peterson said.

Peterson says they’ve done a lot of robotics cams and have visited solar turbines.

“Just amazing things like that around the city and it’s definitely been way better than I could’ve ever expected,” Peterson said. “And when I first joined, I had no idea that I would even have the chance to do the actual things that I’ve done.”

The academy exposes them to the charity work, STEAM education, outdoor activities and gives them a place learn, grow and serve.

“They’ve just given me the opportunity to do things I never thought that I could do. I joined a sport,” Peterson said. “I started my own business.”

Tinesia’s love letter to the community is the hundreds of young sisters who come out of DETOUR truly accepting themselves and ready to give back to the world.

“Leaving something better than you saw it or better than it started is a good way to leave the world to me,” Peterson said.

“Being able to at least try and help subtract the amount of violence in the world,” Makayla Gillian said about her hopes for the future.

“I want to inspire not just young ladies of color, but any young lady at all to say, if you put the work in, you can just definitely accomplish your dreams,” White said.

The girls meet one night week for the FANCY program from September through June. DETOUR hopes to one day expand its programs to help girls all over the world.