Jessica Brown: Westfield Local Heroes 2019
Sister mentors give girls an opportunity to thrive
Life Changing Experiences Foundation
Selfless. Passionate. Inspirational
Jessica Brown was a high school teacher for ten years, and it broke her heart to see girls falling through the cracks because of childhood trauma.
She was determined to give them an opportunity to thrive and break the cycle of unemployment and neglect that may have been in their family for generations.
So, seventeen years ago, she made many personal sacrifices to set up the Life Changing Experiences Foundation and the SISTER2sister program.
SISTER2sister pairs the girls up with trained mentors who often become safe and positive life-long role models.
The girls are also taken through an intensive course that helps them heal, build self-belief and set career goals.
The mentors are like big sisters that some of our girls never had, says Jessica. “For most of them, it is the first time in their life that they have had someone positive and stable.”
Jessica feels honoured to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. “We don’t do it for the recognition, but it’s lovely to be recognised,” she says.
So far, she has taken close to six hundred girls through the program and usually stays in touch with them afterwards. More than eighty per cent of the graduates have gone on to finish high school, and more than half of them are the first person in their family to do so.
Another positive outcome is that most can identify when a relationship is bad for them, says Jessica, who has been an NSW finalist for Australian of the Year and received the 2013 NSW Woman of the Year-Local Hero Community Choice Award.
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation.
The foundation will use its grant to cover the cost of training eleven mentors to ensure a safe, stable and positive experience for eleven girls.
“The grant means so much to us,” says Jessica. We run on the smell of an oily rag, and every dollar makes a difference. The girls’ lives are going to be changed by this money.”
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.