Mission

The Dreamer Girls Project is a racial and gender specific evidence-based substance use, HIV, and STI prevention program for Black girls. The Dreamer Girls Project (TGP) will be to a) increase positive and protective sexual practices (e.g., condom use, PrEP) and psychosocial skills (HIV knowledge, self-efficacy among Black adolescent girls in Paterson and b) to increase knowledge about licit and illicit substances and their relationship with STI and HIV/AIDS.
The Dreamer Girls Project was conceptualized first to be a nonprofit organization in 2010 after the death of Dr. Ijeoma Opara’s father, Mr. Isaiah Opara. Dr. Opara lost her mom, Mrs. Mary Opara, seven years prior to losing her dad so their deaths left her heartbroken, lonely, and confused. Fortunately, leaning on support from her friends, family, and relying on her relationship with God, she was able to begin her path to healing. The loss of her parents at such young ages inspired her to create a program specifically for Black girls. After receiving her PhD, and obtaining an opportunity to design her own study, The Dreamer Girls Project was born.
Dr. Opara wants to provide support and empower Black girls to deal with issues that affect them the most. Overall, she wants to make young Black girls feel like they can dream and soar to the highest heights, despite life difficulties.

Research

The Dreamer Girls Project received pilot study funding in 2019 from National Institute on Mental Health through a HIV education grant housed at Yale School of Public Health to support early career scientists who are conducting HIV-related work (REIDS). The research focus of The Dreamer Girls Project includes interviewing Black teen girls from across the nation to understand risk and protective factors to using drugs and sexual risk behavior, understanding how racism and sexism impacts behavior and using findings to develop a HIV, STI, and drug use prevention program for Black girls.
Since its launch, the project has recruited over fifty (50) Black teen girls to participate in through study through focus group interviews who have provided great information on what they would like to see in a prevention program while also detailing challenges that they have witnessed just from existing as a Black girl in the U.S. It also now has an advisory board of eight (8) ambitious and brilliant Black girls from all over the country. The Dreamer Girls Project prevention program will be designed for Black girls, BY Black girls and is dedicated to creating lasting positive impact on them.

Preliminary findings

Our research shows that there are specific protective factors that lower the chances of using substances and can indirectly, improve mental health. There are major differences in substance use and misuse risk by race, gender, and environmental context. Although there are many evidence-based prevention interventions that have the power to support youth, such interventions are often inaccessible to large youth groups and are not culturally specific enough. This is the importance of prevention interventions that can be tailored to specific diverse groups of youth who may have different risk and protective factors to substance use. Adaptation means the process of modifying an intervention in order for it to meet the needs of the target population.

The SASH Lab at Yale examines four protective factors that can be beneficial in prevention programming for Black girls:

Increasing ethnic identity and pride

Creating spaces where Black girls can learn more about their culture, history, and be proud of their race while challenging negative race and gender stereotypes that are often placed on Black girls.

Increasing social support

Social support doesn’t have to come from family, it can come from chosen family (friends, extended relatives, teachers, counselors and support staff, peer mentors).

Building a strong sense of community

Create spaces for girls that highlight the beauty of the towns, cities, and neighborhoods that Black girls live and thrive in, and promoting resources for capacity building among Black girls.

Increasing empowerment

Honor Black girls as they speak, allowing them to lead and placing them in positions of leadership and power where they can be supported.

Our team is in the process of developing a prevention intervention that can be delivered by Black girls for Black girls! We expect to launch it by Summer 2022. Stay tuned! Follow us on Twitter to be the first to know when we launch!

Philanthropy

The philanthropy division of The Dreamer Girls Project is made possible through a charitable donation from Dr. Opara. Her first act of service will be the launching of the 2022 Black Teen Girls Scholarship

A letter from the Director:

My father always told me,  “Whatever you do, be the best at it. Get the highest degrees you possibly can, just as long as you love what you do”. Although my father wasn’t able to witness me achieve what he prophesied, I know I can still honor his memory by passing on the support he gave me. My goal is to give back to Black teen girls, to support their great ideas and encourage them to go to college. I want to equip them with the confidence and tools they need to have a great start in college. I hope this Black Teen Girls Scholarship will only be the beginning of many educational, practical and empowering programs to come for Black girls.
As a New Jersey native, I will be awarding $500 each to two Black girls in NJ who are attending college in Fall 2022 and can come up with a great idea in preventing HIV, drug use among Black girls that we can use for my project, The Dreamer Girls Project. This money comes directly from me as a way to give back to Black girls. Improving the health of Black girls is a goal of mine and I want to support a girl who is passionate but also wants to be a part of the solution for Black girls.

_Dr. Ijeoma Opara

Steps To Apply:

  • Download, complete and sign theapplication form here
  • Attach the following supporting documents to your application form:  
  • – Provide a 1-page statement answer to this question: Describe what you think would be the best way to prevent HIV, STIs and drug use for Black girls in the United States.
  • – Official acceptance letter from college/university that you will be attending in Fall 2022
  • – A headshot
  • Email your completed application to: thesashlab@yale.eduwith the subject: BLACK TEEN GIRL SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION, prior to the deadline of May 15, 2022. 
  • Please Note: Applicants will be judged based on the best innovative ideas for preventing HIV, STI, and drug use in Black girls. All applications must be received by May 15, 2022 to be considered. Decisions will be announced early to mid-June 2022. 

To accept the Dreamer Girls Project scholarship award, you must agree to share your name and photo for the award announcement and marketing purposes.  The Black Teen Girls Scholarship is not funded or affiliated with the National Institutes of Health or any other federal agency.

The Dreamer Girls Project was conceptualized first as a nonprofit organization in 2010 after the death of Dr. Ijeoma Opara’s father, Mr. Isaiah Opara. She had lost her mom 7 years prior. As a young black girl, the impact of losing her parents left her heartbroken, lonely, and confused. Fortunately, she was able to begin her path to healing, with the support of her faith, friends, and family. This experience, particularly losing her parents at such young ages inspired her to provide support to other Black girls who may be facing challenging life changes at a young age. This prompted the creation of The Dreamer Girls Project, a project designed and dedicated to providing support for Black girls, by empowering them to dream and soar to the highest heights, despite life's difficulties.

Youth Advisory Board

Our youth advisory board consists of Black girl activists and changemakers who are all dedicated to improving health outcomes for Black girls. The Dreamer Girls Project youth advisory board meets monthly to review study activities, fellowships, and collaborate on innovative ways to engage in research, practice, and policy for Black girls.

Marley Dias

New Jersey

Rachel Oladepo

New Jersey

Uzoamaka Gbulie

Texas

Shekinah Glory Peter Mba

New Jersey

Natalya Charlemagne

New Jersey

Kassidy Nola Scott

New Jersey

Michelle Matos

Florida