Reaching for the summit
Premadonna Braddick gives hope to young girls facing challenges.
Premadonna Braddick is the founder of the Girls’ Teen Summit, which brings positive female role models together to encourage, educate and empower at-risk teen girls in the Tulsa area.
Some people are dealt a bad hand. Born into poverty, abuse, neglect, addiction ... coming out a winner is difficult.
But a few rise above. They have an inner compass so focused on climbing out of life’s darkest struggles, they become a beacon of light.
Premadonna Braddick, founder of the Girls’ Teen Summit, is one such shining example of hope.
Coming from impoverished beginnings, Braddick grew up in foster care because her biological parents had drug habits and criminal records.
A victim of abuse in several California foster homes, she had a severe speech impediment and a learning disability and endured bullying at school and at home.
Most would’ve spiraled downward, but not Braddick.
“It doesn’t have to be that way,” she told herself.
At age 15, she started working 10- to 12-hour fast food shifts during summer and holiday breaks. She saved enough money to eventually attend college at San Jose University, where she majored in communications. She instinctively found mentors whose wisdom she respected.
As a teenager, she attended church alone. Her pastor, Bishop Ernestine Cleveland Reems, a board member of Oral Roberts University, encouraged Braddick to continue her education there.
While earning a double master’s degree in Christian counseling and family and marriage counseling, Braddick learned Oklahoma has the highest percentage of incarcerated women in the nation.
Additionally, she learned that over 400,000 U.S. children are in foster care. Of those who age out at 18, 74 percent will be incarcerated within two years, 25 percent will become homeless and 70 percent of females will become pregnant. One out of four will develop PTSD, and only 3 percent will earn a college degree.
It became Braddick’s passion to help prevent these outcomes in the lives of young girls.
“If we can reach at-risk teen girls before they become a statistic, how great would that be?” she thought.
In 2012, she put together a platform of female speakers to demonstrate overcoming life’s challenges. Named the Girls’ Teen Summit, the event targeted seventh- through 12th-grade girls in the Tulsa metro area.
Approximately 120 girls attended the first year. To date, more than 300 have participated. Braddick promotes the summit to Tulsa-area high schools, youth shelters and group homes.
Through her nonprofit, Soaring Eagles Youth and Family Services, Braddick offers counseling, mentorship and workshops at GTS.
Financial support comes from various fundraisers throughout the year and community partnerships. The nonprofit received its first
operational grant last year from the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation.
Teens at GTS learn about topics such as college readiness, financial literacy, red flags about dating, health and fitness and the importance of resilience. They also learn to value themselves, Braddick says.
She recalls one GTS participant who “came up to the mic, crying ... She had never shared her story (of witnessing her stepfather abuse her mother), but felt safe enough to talk, without judgment” from staff and participants. The girl shared her underlying anger, defiance of authority and suspensions from school.
“She said, ‘I know I have to do better with my life, and I can’t continue to carry this anger and pain with me any longer,’” Braddick
Sonia Brown, shelter coordinator for Youth Services of Tulsa, regularly accompanies girls to the summit.
“It’s so powerful,” she says. “One young lady said her whole life had changed. It’s phenomenal ... and so much fun.”
Brown calls Braddick “quite the person; modest, passionate, visionary.”
“Premadonna’s enthusiasm is infectious,” agrees Angel Harris, a college student and former GTS participant. Her favorite workshop, “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” discussed domestic violence and bullying and how to avoid the trap of sex trafficking.
In 2014, Braddick started the monthly “Real Life, Real Talk” series to help GTS alumni stay connected. The workshops are one Saturday a month during the school year.
At all of her events, Braddick tries to instill in teen girls the advice that was given to her.
“Don’t just accept the story that is given to you,” she says. “We’re helping individuals rewrite their stories.”
Girls’ Teen Summit
Registration: 2-4 p.m., Friday, and 7-8 a.m., Saturday; summit: 4-8:30 p.m., Friday, and 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturday. Tulsa Dream Center, 200 W. 46th St. N. Free. Advance registration is requested; call 918-739-8336 to register. Visit www.facebook.com/girlsteensummit or www.soaringeaglesyfs.org.