Maggie: A program in one of the poorest and most violent cities in the country is changing the lives of young girls and even giving them the chance to appear on national TV. Shelby Holliday meets up with the girls who are succeeding by teaming up and sticking together.
Children: The children of Camden is crying for help. Father, we need you. Nobody hears our cry.
Shelby: In a city full of poverty, failing schools and gang violence, there is a drill team full of hope.
Tawanda Jones: Who are we!
Team: CSS! CSS! CSS! Ha!
Shelby: The Camden Sophisticated Sisters from New Jersey know what it takes to succeed.
Miss Wawa: For you not to use the talent that God gave you is like a slap in the face.
Shelby: Under the direction of Tawanda Jones, or Miss Wawa, as the team calls her, the Sophisticated Sisters have marched in parades, appeared on national news shows, and even performed on Dancing with the Stars! The team has brought success to a city known for failure.
Rising above the struggles of daily life here in Camden, the Sophisticated Sisters have found a way to succeed in what is one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the U.S. In fact, with sixty-seven homicides, last year was the bloodiest in Camden’s history.
For some of the Sisters, the violence has hit home.
How did your father pass away?
Destinee Williams: He was murdered, actually. Seven o’clock at night, November 12th, 2011. I really don’t know why. I don’t really how. But he was shot ten times.
Shelby: Ten times?
Shelby: Destinee’s drill team sister, Tina, has also lost loved ones.
Tina Amore: He was someone that lived on this street right here, Thurman. And he was shot on his own corner.
Shelby: Murals around town pay tribute to murdered neighbors, daily reminders of the bloodshed in Camden’s streets.
Are you ever scared walking around?
Tina: I’m not scared sometimes. It’s just sometimes I’d rather be with somebody than be alone.
Shelby: A lot of Tina’s teammates have similar stories. But when times get tough, they turn to the Sophisticated Sisters for support.
Miss Wawa: Y’all are not alone in this. Y’all are not in this alone.
Shelby: What has drill team meant to you?
Destinee: Right now, it’s like my life. Like, it’s all I have.
Tina: We’ve all been through some hard times, just living in the city. So, we all know how to be there for one another.
Shelby: The drill team also keeps girls on track with their education. Every member must complete all homework at the beginning of practice and maintain above a C average in school.
Kidada Green: If you don’t have a C average, you cannot be in the drill team.
Shelby: So, you have to keep your grades up.
Daisanay: If I need help with my schoolwork, then I will ask to get a tutor and they’ll tutor me.
Shelby: In a city where less than half of all teenagers finish high school, the Sophisticated Sisters have a 100% graduation rate.
Destinee: I feel like I am lucky that I’ve chosen the lifestyle that I did, not because I wasn’t killed but I am happy that I made the right decision.
Shelby: Many of the drill team members plan on going to college. But no matter where life takes them, they will always be Sophisticated Sisters.
Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.