Sisters of Nia at Rowe Elementary

Mrs. Marang began her teaching career in 2003. She started off in Georgia, moved around to a few different states, and finally settled in Chicago. She is currently in her sixth year as an Intervention Teacher at Rowe Elementary Charter School.  In this role, she works with third graders who are reading below grade level to catch them up.

Outside of her role as an Intervention Teacher, Mrs. Marang also leads a group for young girls called Sisters of Nia. Several years ago, Mrs. Marang and a former social worker discussed how they saw a need to ensure that their African American female students felt a sense of belonging and pride at school. They researched existing curricula that focused on building community, found a program called Sisters of Nia, and decided to try it out. It was a huge success and they’ve been running it ever since.

Sisters of Nia actually started out as quite a small group – just six girls participated in the first year. It soon became so popular that Mrs. Marang’s current group has over twenty girls participating, ranging from third to fifth graders. They and their families opt-in to participate for one hour every Thursday during their lunch or enrichment periods.

Mrs. Marang believes the program has become popular because it is a warm and welcoming group for the girls to learn about their culture and about themselves in a space that feels safe and empowering to explore. They talk about specific topics and issues each week. For example, they talk about developing an appreciation for who they are, increasing positive friendships and peer interactions, and leadership.  They also learn about aspects of African history, current events, and the variety of cultures. One such aspect is “Africa: Fact & Fiction.” They also include African principals or character traits to have. They then participate in team-building activities and tie in African proverbs. One outstanding proverb is “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your character.”

The group also goes on trips together. Their latest trip was to the DuSable Museum of African American History. The Sisters of Nia had the opportunity to learn about the impact that youth like themselves, had during the civil rights movement. They learned about Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American mayor through an interactive exhibit. They were probably most excited to be able to have their cell phones and take pictures of each other with sculptures.