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Jack & Jill of America celebrating regional teen conference this weekend in Westchester County

Jack & Jill celebrating regional conference this weekend in Westchester
Jack & Jill celebrating regional conference this weekend in Westchester 04:07

NEW YORK -- Dozens of moms from Westchester County are about to host hundreds of teens from across the northeast. 

All the kids are part of an organization called Jack & Jill of America. It was formed in 1938 by socialite and concert pianist Marion Stubbs Thomas. What started out as a social network and play group has grown into a pillar of the African American community. 

"You have this dynamic group of women that have all these talents, and they throw their talents into the activities that they offer their kids," mother Seana Watts said.

Watts is an attorney with four daughters. As a Jack & Jill mom, she loves how the organization also connects and supports Black children. 

"My kids are the only kids in our neighborhood that look like us," she said. 

"I've gone to predominantly white schools all my life," said high school junior Lauren Watts. "The purpose of it is so that we, as Black children, can be exposed to other children who look like us, and talk like us, and are like us and have similar heritage to us."

Each month, the mothers plan activities for their children that focus on leadership training, cultural activities, civic engagement, philanthropic giving and volunteer service. 

"There's a lot of stuff going on in the world around us, so it's important, when you have the means, to just give back to others," high school senior Isaiah Ndzibah said. 

The moms in Jack & Jill also aim to nurture each child's ability to be a leader. 

"Leadership isn't a skill you're just born with. It's something that's cultivated. It's something that someone has to be interested in cultivating within you," said high school junior Marley Watts. "Jack & Jill moms take really, really good care of not just their own children but all the children in the chapter.

These Jack & Jills also have a lot of fun. They do everything from group painting lessons to skiing, kayaking and fencing. 

Each year, the teenagers gather by region for conferences -- a tradition that started back in the 1950s. 

"Teen Conference is somewhere they come and elect regional officers, so they can discuss as a region what's important to them as teenagers. So there's some advocacy that goes on there," said Dawn Hankin, president of the Westchester chapter that's hosting the event this weekend. 

There are also workshops and a college fair. For graduating seniors and their parents, it's the end of a journey. 

"It's the culmination of your time in Jack & Jill," parent Nicole Ndzibah said. "We have a big gala for our seniors, and they go through a rite of passage."

"Our focus is on making all families successful. We're pouring into our children for them to take the skills and the different exposures that we're giving them to make the world a much better place for everyone," said Melinda Alexis-Hayes, director of Jack & Jill's eastern region. 

One of the highlights of the event is a black tie gala on the last night of the conference, which CBS2's Elise Finch has the honor of emceeing Saturday. Her mother was a member of Jack & Jill, so she and her sister grew up in the Westchester chapter and attended the teen conferences. 

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