Open Arms Transformation Living Empowers Girls

Longfellow Elementary eighth graders Emery White and Za’Niya Boose with principal Yolanda Johnson (middle)

By Tricia Hall
The Truth Reporter

Open Arms Transformation Living concluded a semester delivering hands-on social emotional and empowerment programming at Longfellow Elementary on Friday, December 1. The West Toledo school and the local nonprofit collaborated to provide eighth grade girls with the tools to elevate their self-esteem, build inner-peace and implement conflict mediation tools. The collaboration ran 15-weeks, during which 30 girls meet with OATL once per week to discuss pre-determined topics while creating a safe space for the girls.

“Open Arms Transformation Living were here to help the students become more respectful in dealing with conflict, and own their body and mind. It’s about fostering better young women and empowering them,” said Yolanda Johnson, principal of Longfellow Elementary.

On the program’s final day at Longfellow, the girls received a special gift from the OATL Executive Director Fonda Royster, and the girls hand delivered gifts to the school’s staff. The special gift included a notebook to journal, blanket, stuffed animal and snacks.

“We talked about how to distinguish health relationships from unhealthy relationships, the importance of consent and their positive self-image. During the program we create a vision board and today the girls created a rose that they were able to keep,” said Royster.

In addition to the program at Longfellow, OATL delivers a community-wide program, once per week, at Lagrange Library for females between the ages of 12-20.

Open Arms Transformation Living was established as a nonprofit in 2022 by founder and executive director Royster. The overall objective of the nonprofit is to provide a lifeline between teens that have or may experience teen violence and essential resources including law enforcement.

To reach that objective, their mission is to provide basic needs, such as housing resources, food, clothing, case management and other essentials to the unhoused, runaway and exploited youth between the ages of 16-20. They also seek to educate females between the ages of 12-18 how to identify and combat youth violence and human trafficking at the same time.

In addition to the Longfellow Elementary and Lagrange Library programs, OATL documented survey success while serving at Woodward High School and has several active partnerships including: Nirvana Now!, Mental Health Recovery Services Board of Lucas County, United Way of Greater Toledo and Simply Divine Boutique.

Royster has over 20 years of social service experience and is currently the Domestic Violence Resource Specialist at the Lucas County Juvenile Court. Her education background includes an associate’s degree in Social Work, bachelor’s degree in Sociology, master’s degree in Addiction Counseling and master’s degree in Human Services.

For additional information about OATL email (