Royal Girls Program
Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries – Charlottesville, Virginia
- Emerging Leader: Sonia Montalvo
- Grant Program: Emerging Leader
- Amount of Grant: $15,000
- Dates of Grant Term: February 2019 – February 2021
Sonia Montalvo has served as the Young Ladies’ Program Coordinator at Abundant Life Ministries, Charlottesville, Va., since 2018. In this role she works alongside 15 girls in the community to provide services for their academic, spiritual, and social growth. Montalvo attended Elizabeth City State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications studies. During her junior year, she interned with City of Promise, a community development nonprofit in Charlottesville; and then returned following her graduation to serve as a youth supervisor. Montalvo’s passion for serving youth continued to grow and she joined Teach For America Houston Corps (TFA). However, her work with TFA was cut short following the effects of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Montalvo returned to Charlottesville and before joining Abundant Life Ministries, she worked in the Charlottesville city schools as an interventionist and piloted a program for African American and Latinx Middle School girls to explore creative writing.
Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries noticed a significant education gap between student groups in the Charlottesville Public Schools. On average, black students are three grades behind their white peers in reading and math. Only 25% of black students graduate with an advanced diploma (compared to 75% of white students), which requires students to complete an additional credit in mathematics, science, history, and three years of a foreign language. This sets up black students to be less likely to apply and attend college. Violence has also affected many families in the Prospect neighborhood, one of five federally defined low-income neighborhoods in Charlottesville. The Royal Girls Program, which is comprised of 12-15 girls from the Prospect neighborhood, will provide them with tutoring and college prep to help get them to the same level as their white peers. The program also aims to help the girls heal from violent acts committed against them and/or their loved ones through bi-monthly group therapy sessions led by trained counselors and therapists.