It was Zuri's turn, but the little girl with braided hair hesitated.
"Don't you trust us?" the instructor said, her voice an encouraging reminder of the other girls whose earlier falls ended in shrieks of high-pitched laughter.
Zuri turned her back, closed her eyes and fell into the waiting arms of six other 5 year olds. Then came the giggles.
Later, as the little girls sat in a circle slurping on Popsicles, Marisa Shockley-Wilson coached them on the virtues of friendship and trust and getting along in a world where everyone is unique.
The lesson was short and simple, explained with the kind of words 5-year-olds understand.
"You have to respect each other for being different," she told them.
Shockley-Wilson, 35, is the co-founder of a new after-school group for York City girls ages 5 to 18.
Not unlike the Girl Scouts, the YaYa Girls say pledges, share snacks and dance to catchy music until their parents come to pick them up. They write in journals and talk about friendship and hush a room to silence by raising two fingers skyward.
But there is a deliberate urban twist to this club, a kind of acknowledgment that these young ladies face ordinary challenges and then some. The goal is to give the girls the tools they need to overcome those challenges.
The motivation: The idea belongs to a group of about a dozen women who call themselves the YaYa Sisterhood, friends whose bond blossomed last year into a shared calling to take action.
The untimely death of their friend Michaela Breeland in November motivated the group to stop talking and start doing.
"We just knew we needed to do more," said Shockley-Wilson, whose Beneath the Surface Salon on West Market Street transforms once a week into a
YaYa Girls meeting place.
Girls from the city are especially at risk for drug abuse, domestic violence and teenaged pregnancy, said Alisha Shockley, Shockley-Wilson's sister and a teacher at Helen Thackston Charter School.
As schools cut art and music programs and other after-school activities disappear, the risks just increase, Shockley said.
"A lot of the things that were options before aren't there anymore," Shockley said. "The options for young ladies in the city are very limited."
Free program: All volunteers, the women of the YaYa Sisterhood are offering the free program for two hours each week. There are still slots available in the 15-18 age group, but the younger groups are full until a new session begins in the fall.
Each week the YaYa Girls gather in an open room at Beneath the Surface Salon and recite a pledge that begins with the words, "You are you and no one else. You are unique. You are beautiful. You are strong."
For the older girls, they plan community-service projects and college fairs. If sponsorships come through, they'd like to schedule field trips to places like Washington, D.C.
The YaYa Sisterhood counts among its members several teachers, a college student, a small business owner, a marketing account executive and a criminal justice major. Most are mothers.
Girls from the city need role models who look like them, said Roxanne Harvey, a longtime educator.
"We're prepared to step up," she said. "We want to give back to York City."
-- Reach Erin James at 505-5439 or email@example.com or on Twitter @ydcity.