LEONARDTOWN, Md. — Creating the community leaders of tomorrow can be a daunting task, but this organization has come together to take charge of helping get young women involved in the community.

The Dream Queen Association and Foundation were founded by Erin Lewis to manufacture opportunities for women and girls to receive the knowledge and support needed to step into leadership roles and make a positive impact on the world.

The Foundation is an organization where volunteers can join and contribute in several ways. Some volunteer paths include becoming a Gals Lead Certified Facilitator, a Gals Lead Guest Speaker, and joining one of the three Dream Queen volunteer teams. These teams include the Ambassador Team, Fundraising Team, and Event Team.

The Ambassador Team helps with all sorts of networking and social media outreach about the Foundation. The Fundraising Team helps structure memberships and set up fundraisers. The Event Team sets up and helps with decorating, participating in group activities, packing up swag bags for giveaways, and more. The Association meets roughly once a month throughout Southern Maryland.

“The Association is a women’s networking group. We are positive, purpose-filled, passionate women, who work together to support each other,” said Maryanna Lanham, Executive Director, and Networking Event Leader. Lanham explained that the Association typically meets in Solomons and White Plains, but is looking to expand to other areas.

Lanham went on to discuss the Foundation’s core programs such as The Gals Lead Teen Mentorship Program. The curriculum for this program includes “working with girls to develop and cultivate their self-confidence, authenticity, and leadership potential. Participants gain the clarity and confidence needed to create intentional career paths they love – ones that align with their divine passion and purpose. The program focuses on four Pillars of Success: (1) Know Yourself; (2) Dream Big; (3) Overcome Obstacles; (4) Take Action.”

Lanham said her personal goal is to “have a club program in the schools of all three counties in Southern Maryland.” 

“It is about self-growth. We are facilitators, not instructors because we help facilitate their personal growth,” said Lanham.

The Foundation has also done weekend experiences, where they provide food and guide young women through the program for two days. Lanham says she sees drastic changes in the girls from the first day to the last day. They went from being a bit quiet and even rolling their eyes to holding hands and sharing their experiences and emotions.

Lanham feels the program helps improve a young woman’s perspective of herself.

“The biggest way to battle mental illness is to help them find their value,” she said. “It’s hard to help get clarity on their dreams without knowing who they are.”

Lanham also mentioned that the Foundation is working with the St. Mary’s County Health Department to make a Dream Queen after-school program.

Beth Graeme, the President/Chairwoman, explained that the school programs help facilitate conversations with teen girls. The facilitators meet with the clubs often during lunch. They ask questions to the girls and do their best to listen and speak to them with a non-biased voice.

Two of the facilitators at Great Mills High School, Kimberly Bannister and Maria Thorpe (2021 Maryland Mother of the Year), discussed some of the activities the high school club participates in. There are “Sister Circles” where the girls share their experiences. They are asked questions like what they are grateful for and what they desire for the coming week. The facilitators also help the girls to come up with plans on how to improve things like studying habits.

According to Graeme, a Facilitator Academy is coming up on January 8. In the academy, women will learn how to leave biases at the door and listen without judgment. One such lesson Graeme described is the “Dear Me Movement” that the club works into their sessions. “What would you go back and tell your 15-year-old self?” she explained.

Anybody interested can check out their website at https://dreamqueenfoundation.org/.

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