How Tracy Wilson Mourning Is On A Mission To Empower Young Women

Tracy MourningPhoto Credit: Gesi Schilling

Miami-based philanthropist, mother and influencer Tracy Wilson Mourning is a woman on a mission: Empowering young women around South Florida, and hopefully (one day), the world, to celebrate one another and encourage them to be their very best selves. Through her Honey Shine Mentoring Program, Tracy and her team are assisting young girls in low-income areas of South Florida and Los Angeles through her after-school and summer camp programs with the Foundation. Through the programs, they empower the girls with the tools they need to grow and succeed in the future. Here, Haute Living sits down with Tracy to learn more about her mission with Honey Shine:

HL: Tell us how you came to create the Honey Shine Mentoring Program.

TWM: The Honey Shine Mentoring Program started from God—he placed it on my heart many years ago. I used to live here in South Florida when I was a little girl—and when I moved back here, I visited the same woman who used to take care of me in the same house. And I would see groups of young girls walking around the neighborhood, which is very challenged when it comes to resources and finances. I wondered which one of those girls out of that group I would have been if it weren’t for the women in my life that helped me grow. That’s when I knew I had to do something. Now, we’re celebrating 16 years later. We started off as a mentoring program that was once a month, where we’d have group discussions and bring the girls to workshops at hotels on the beach because some had never gone to the beach. Now we’re a program where we have workshops twice a month, plus after-school programming in several schools here in South Florida and Los Angeles. We have a summer camp that’s six weeks long in South Florida and we talk about everything—self-esteem, higher education, financial literacy, STEM, robotics and just developing. It’s very challenging being a teenager and a girl, but with everything—social media—at your fingertips, where you’re dealing with adult issues, it’s very timely that the program is what it is.

HL: Do you think social media has had an influence on how you’ve adapted as an organization?

TWM: Social media has definitely had an influence on how we’ve had to adapt because bullying is now a 24/7 issue. When I’d go to school, you’d get bullied during the day at school and then you’d go home and come back the next day and it starts again—but with social media, it never ends. So, it’s important to remind the youth of what is important and keep them grounded. I have a strong belief that when you follow your passion, it will lead you to your purpose. We all have a purpose in this world and I just want our young girls to get that sooner rather than later.

HL: What has been one of your fondest memories of working with the Foundation since its inception?

TWM: There’s so many memories. I love to have our girls come back. They come back and they serve themselves, and that’s really awesome. One that really stands out to me is when we first started our summer camp. I went home the first day, I was crying and saying “I’m not going back,” because it was so stressful with all of these girls and teenagers dealing with their stuff. And the next day I got up and went back, and the minute I walked through the door I had a Honey Bug walk up to me and say “Ms. Tracy, I told God thank you for Honey Shine!” That made me say “Okay God, I hear you loud and clear!”

Tracy MourningPhoto Credit: Gesi Schilling

HL: What are your short-term and long-term goals for Honey Shine?

TWM: In the short term, I want to continue to impact the lives that we are impacting here locally and continue to grow the program. I want to be in all schools here in South Florida—I think that’s very important. In the long-term, I want us to be around the world—any place we can go where girls can find a way to love themselves and see themselves in the women volunteering. I see us all over the world empowering young girls and women to shine.

HL: Tell us about the big event approaching—the Hats Off Luncheon. How did you develop the concept?  

TWM: I remembered my good friend Madeleine Arison had invited me to a luncheon In Miami when I first moved here and all the women were in fancy hats and I thought it was a great way to gather and get together. We needed a great fundraiser for Honey Shine. That’s how it was born and we’re going strong for 16 years. It’s a great way to showcase our Honey Bugs. A lot of luncheons I go to is about the adults, but our Hats Off Luncheon is about our girls. It’s about celebrating them and giving them that platform so they can just shine as bright as they want to.

HL: Who are some of your mentors in the philanthropy world?

TWM: So many. My friends—they inspire me for sure. My Honey Bugs inspire me. But my greatest inspiration, though, is my mom. She’s my heart and soul. She has shown me that you can’t let anyone break you—you have to keep pushing through no matter what.

HL: One piece of advice to give to young girls now—something important for them to keep in mind.

TWM: Something that I’m continuing to learn all the time, and something we all know, is at the end of the day, no matter what, no one can come before God. God has to come first and wants us more than anything to love ourselves first and to our highest. Never go where you’re just tolerated, go where you’re celebrated wherever that is in the world. And don’t just tolerate disrespect or dishonor because that leads to a lack of self-respect. Follow your passion, live your purpose and go where you’re celebrated!