Members of the class of 2019 gathered with their families Saturday afternoon at the Sistas with a Purpose Annual Senior Banquet. SWAP consists of seven sisters and their daughters along with two close family friends, and the group has hosted the event for the last eight years.
All African American seniors from the area were invited for an afternoon with two motivational speakers and a great meal. SWAP also presents one male and one female graduate with a bag full of items they will need as they continue on to college.
Violet Halstied said they first began handing out the bags 15 years ago and the banquet grew from there.
“It’s basically a survival kit for when you first go to school,” Halstied said. Some of the items are sheets, towels, dishes, silverware, toiletries, and even Ramen noodles. The bag itself can also be a useful tool for college students. “The purpose of the bag is so you can bring all the dirty clothes back home.”
She said the response over the years has been wonderful.
“I’d have a mom tell me ‘girl, that bag really did help me because half of that stuff I didn’t think about or I forgot it — but it was all in the bag,’” Halstied said. “That was nice to hear that we were definitely doing something right.”
Shanita Jones, a local counselor and founder of area nonprofit Restoring Lives, was one of this year’s speakers. Her speech focused on helping students find the right way to begin the next chapter in their life.
“You’re reading the last paragraphs, and you’re getting ready to turn the page and start the next chapter,” Jones said. “What does that next chapter look like?”
One of Jones’ primary points was the value of knowing one’s own self worth.
“I have run across so many children, youth, young adults and adults who don’t know their worth. And when you don’t know your worth, you’ll mask up for whatever you’re going to do,” Jones said. “Because you’re too busy trying to please others, you’re not being true to yourself.” She continued by telling the students that self worth is not determined by things like grades, race, gender or the amount of money you or your family makes.
“The reality is you’re worthy just because God says you are. Regardless of whatever else you attach to yourself or what else you might accomplish — or might not,” Jones said. “The issue is you have to believe it.”