Three years ago, a group of women decided to stop talking and start doing.

They created the YaYa Girls, an after-school program like the Girl Scouts — but with an urban twist for young ladies who face ordinary challenges and then some.

On Tuesdays, about 40 girls age 5 to 16 gather in a York City salon to learn about health, financial stability, arts, culture, etiquette and poise.

They learn through arts and crafts, field trips and business ventures.

Since the group's start in 2011, "we can see that it's effective," said Marisa Shockley-Wilson, a co-founder of the group and owner of the salon.

Shockley-Wilson has entered a nationwide contest that could fund improvements to the YaYa Girls' gathering space at Beneath the Surface Salon.

And she's hoping the community steps up to help.

How it works: Wilson is up against more than 100 other contestants in the Hairdressers at Heart contest, hosted by Wella at

On the website, the beauty-products company says it will reward 20 of the highest-scoring entries with grants up to $10,000.

In January, Shockley-Wilson moved the salon across the street to 658 W. Market St.

The salon, like the former space, has room for YaYa Girls gatherings.

But the room, a former warehouse, is not renovated. It needs new flooring, lights and storage room.

If Shockley-Wilson wins any money in the contest, she plans to use it to build a space for the girls in her salon.


Online voting will account for 40 percent of an entry's score. Other factors include the potential impact on the community and the quality of the entry, according to the website.

The voting deadline is Thursday, May 15. Votes are limited to one vote per person each day until the deadline. To vote, go to and search for YaYa Girls.

— Reach Erin James at