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Celebrating Black History Makers: Kelly Fair Devoted Her Life To Empowering Young Girls With Polished Pebbles Program

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Kelly Fair is devoting her life to empowering Chicago's at-risk girls.

CBS 2's Irika Sargent reports Fair, founder of Polished Pebbles mentoring program, saw the need and didn't hesitate to give up her own career to give back to thousands.

The Black History Maker shared what drives her to change lives.

"The change that we're looking at having, we've got to be committed to it day in and day out," Fair said.

For Fair, it meant giving up her coveted, high-paying executive job to follow her passion – mentoring girls of color in Chicago's often-forgotten neighborhoods.

Sargent asked Fair what it took to put aside her career and make such a radical change?

"What sort of courage did you have to find to do that? Is it courage or crazy?" Sargent asked.

"Definitely takes a little bit of both," Fair said. "I liked my job, and my corporate credit card, and all that came with; but I missed some of that direct impact with community."

By taking a part-time job as a bank teller, Fair was able to spend just about every other waking minute creating Polished Pebbles.

She started out with two mentees, in 2008 on the Far South Side.

"They've attempted to go get part-time or after school jobs. They feel rejected," Fair said. "They feel as if they are not desired."

Fair calls it the hope gap – especially for Black and Latinx girls.

"And so much of our work is about building them up; helping them know about the innate leadership skills they have within themselves, so we can close that hope gap," Fair said.

Polished Pebbles teaches the girls how to be excellent communicators – at home, at school, and in their future workplaces.

Major companies such as Microsoft and Bloomingdale's, and competitive architectural and engineering firms, all saw Fair's vision and are now helping push her mission forward.

"It's a job shadow at one of our partnering businesses, and so they get to put all the communication and life skills together," Fair said.

And now, Fair and her team have helped more than 5,000 girls from third grade through high school. Many are in Chicago; but Indiana, Texas, and North Carolina are also represented.

Fair's first conference for girls last fall drew attendees online from India.

Among her Polished Pebbles graduates are a Fulbright scholar and a Yale law student, and some return to become mentors to the next group of girls.

"A testament to me that this has been worth it," Fair said.

It's a welcome cycle that Fair experienced herself as a young girl, when she found inspiration from her great-grandmother, Maggie Peoples, at church, mentoring girls in their Morgan Park neighborhood.

"Nana was an usher for 63 years," Fair said. "She is the epitome of volunteering and giving back, and she pushed young people to be there best all the time."

So when Fair is presented with her new title of Chicago History Maker, she humbly uses it as a call to action for everyone.

"We are all history makers," she said. "We all have our opportunity to make that kind of mark in a young person's life."

The success sparked another idea from Fair – a book called "Every Girl Is a CEO" that is already in the hands of girls at several school districts and churches.

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