Extreme Makeover: St. Augustine Edition

By Catherine Pinyot | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Faded, spray-painted walls. A television that won’t turn on. A broken air-hockey table. Beanbag chairs with the stuffing oozing out. A brown, stained sofa.

The students at St. Augustine’s Sebastian Middle School don’t have much of a rec room. Christened the “Eagle’s Nest” (Sebastian’s mascot is an eagle), this space has been used since 1998 as a reward for students who tally up enough extra credit points. The “privileged” swarm in during recess—to a pile of disheveled board games on a dusty, laminate shelf.

“It makes you feel sick to your stomach,” says Dariana Tew, seventh grader at Sebastian. “None of the games work, the TV is broken, the beanbags are worthless and raggedy.”

Tew is one of the 15 girls who meet every Monday morning in the Eagle’s Nest for Girls Circle. Led at Sebastian Middle School by Flagler College sophomore and Enactus member Ashley Da Silva, Girls Circle is a national mentoring program for girls ages 9-18 that come from high-risk homes.

“I first got involved with Girls Circle as an Enactus project strictly because I have a heart for mentoring,” says Da Silva. “It didn’t take me long to realize that something needed to be done about the Eagle’s Nest.”

Sweetly Broken is the name of the jewelry company created by Da Silva as a solution. The girls are sweetly broken and so are the shards of tossed-away glass that they’re transforming into beautiful sea-glass jewelry. Each necklace narrates the life of one of the girls.

Dariana Tew waits outside the Seabreeze Motel every morning for the school bus to take her to Sebastian Middle School. Tew and her four siblings, mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa live in two hotel rooms. Short, bouncy blonde hair and a bright smile contrast her less-than-stellar living conditions.

“Girls Circle is the best thing that’s happened to me all year,” says Tew.

Customers who drop by the Sweetly Broken booth at Art Walk on the first Friday of every month can purchase a “Dariana” necklace, as well as a “Desi,” “Diara,” “Kayla,” and “Tiffany.”

The money earned from selling the handmade works of art will be invested in refurbishing and modernizing the Eagle’s Nest. Da Silva hopes to raise at least $1500 through Sweetly Broken to put back into the outdated rec room.

“The girls have finally found something to be passionate about.” says Da Silva. “I want to see it continue. I want to see them continue to be inspired and I want to see the sales become consistent. A few months from now, the Eagle’s Nest will be a different place.”

Freshly painted walls. A sleek flat-screen TV. Furniture that smells like the store it just came from. And a hanging, framed photograph of the 15 girls that made it happen, a lone piece of sea-glass resting on top.

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