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By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
A vision board is pinned to Sharon DuMas’ refrigerator, serving as a visual reminder of her affirmations.
The fulfillment of one goal has evolved into the creation of new ones that has now spread overseas.
DuMas’ vision for helping plus size women and girls started nearly 40 years ago with the founding of Full and Fabulous, a 401C3 non-profit organization, and has grown from a small group in Detroit to include participants throughout Johannesburg South Africa, Ghana, Atlanta, and Arizona.
“I expected to only be a national organization, but we are now global by way of modern technology - Zoom,” DuMas said. “We are in conversation with the opportunity to have girls participate from Bermuda and all from the comfort of my home. It would have cost a lot of money and time had I traveled to all of those cities and countries.”
Girls ages 12 to 21 are inspired to dream big and have created their own vision boards. They are taught to believe that being full and fabulous “is a state of mind, not a dress size.”
The organization offers girls a safe place to openly discuss issues facing plus sized teens, such as sexual abuse, peer pressure, drugs, bullying, eating disorders, drinking and smoking. Experiences are shared, and solutions for resolving each problem are implemented.
“When they come to us they’re sad. They want to lose weight. They have low self-esteem. I don’t know if their change is magical, but I can say that it’s God for sure,” DuMas said. “With our girls, we put emphasis on health, beauty and self-esteem. And, to make healthy choices in every area of their life.”
Sakai, 15, has noticed positive changes in her attitude and behavior, since she started the program.
“Before the program, I had trouble communicating any part of my emotional trauma to others. I remember a session we had with the doctor. We met every two weeks or so, where we had to point out where this cycle of wavering confidence began. I pointed this out and am happy to say that I no longer have much of an issue communicating my feelings. I have recognized my trauma, and know more ways to combat negative feelings more than ever,” she said. “There
are many benefits to being apart Full & Fabulous which, I don't even consider a program anymore. You learn ways to love yourself and why it is important to show love to others. You build a bond with people who are 3, 10, or even 1,000 miles away. One of the biggest things I learned from this program is to show empathy and to always network wherever you are.”
Each session is started with each girl stating a positive affirmation using the letters in their name – Smart, Happy, Attractive Responsible Outstanding and Nice (Sharon).
In addition to boosting one’s self esteem with positive affirmations, each girl is required to make their own vision board to plan for their future.
“My vision is simply, success. I am currently working on a business for myself as well as ways to contribute to ‘Tu' be Jeweled’. This business is run strictly by girls in the group. With our mentors on the books, that they allow us to profit from the proceeds,” Sakai added. “Once I turn 18, I will establish my credit to a number I can maintain, 750. I will go to Howard or Spelman college, and become an international attorney. That way I can travel, while doing my due diligence. I also have the goal of doing a lot for my community, Detroit, as a whole.”
Sakai’s mother has also noticed the transformation and is proud of the changes made.
“Sakai is more self-confident, assertive and happy. She enjoys public speaking more,” she explained. “She used to be a more introverted child. Now, her confidence is amazing, and she speaks with authority.”
In addition to becoming bold and having more confidence, there are other qualities that their mentors hope to instill.
“Self-love, perseverance, and determination are three of the main qualities that I look forward to our participants gaining from being in the program,” Delissa Beaver, Assistant Director, said. “The biggest thing that I want for all young women who participate in the program to take with them is to understand who they are as growing young women and to remember the special light that they have inside of them..... to know that they can do anything that they put their minds to. As long as they continue to perseverance with determination and the will to go on no matter what, they can make it happen.”
It is that same perseverance that has help DuMas to successfully run the program that will celebrate its 40-year anniversary in 2022.
“I believe the reason for the longevity of the program is because I experienced the same things the girls are experiencing now,” DuMas said. “I believe this is God’s purpose for my life, because I have worked the program most times without being paid. I have had referrals from churches, doctors, schools, hospitals and the justice department. We didn’t always have a sponsor in place, so I put up my own money to rent space and buy gas so the girls could be picked up. Sometimes, I’ve even bought shoes and uniforms, because those things cost more than the regular size. Some parents couldn’t afford to buy the girls more than one uniform, which was not enough.”
DuMas has new visions for the girls.
“My future goals for the organization are to train the girls to do peer-to-peer education where they will share with their peers the things they are learning,” DuMas said. “Also, I want to add higher education classes such as social media training and coding, because college is not always an option.”
As each girl creates their vision board, they see themselves as future entrepreneurs, educators, mothers and wives.
A picture is posted representing each goal and the board is placed in a prominent place to remind them of their objective in life.
“I would be doing my mentors a disservice by disregarding all of the amazing business mantras and skills I’ve acquired,” Sakai added. “Along with building confidence, we're taught to build credit, businesses, and life lessons such as why it is important to say no to sugar sometimes!”
And, that is a vision for success.
Visit fullandfabulous.org for details.