We’ve all been there. The struggle for identity and independence that plagues the period of adolescence. For most, this is the most turbulent time in one’s life — characterized by the transition from childhood innocence to accepting adult responsibility. This freedom can often cause individuals to take a suboptimal path, forming rigid habits and mindsets that set an unfortunate lifelong tone. The adolescent years are vulnerable for many, a period during which support and positive encouragement are critical. GirlAdvocates! was founded last fall upon this realization. Instead of focusing on the negativity that plagues adolescence, GirlAdvocates! focuses on bringing out the best in girls through empowering and developing inner strength and resilience.
GirlAdvocates! works to empower girls globally, locally and individually through the many programs and opportunities offered to our members. On the global level, we raise funds and awareness for our philanthropy, The Girl Effect, which sponsors educational programming for girls in developing countries. We have been able to raise over $800 for the cause thus far through events such as yoga night and our annual “We believe in the power of girls” pledge wall. We will also be hosting a benefit concert next spring as well as introducing the first ever “Week of the Girl” in partnership with “GirlUp.” It will be a weeklong extravaganza of speakers, engagements and fun.
On the local level, GirlAdvocates! partners with local nonprofits in the Austin area that also align with our goals. For instance, we have been able to supply volunteers to GenAustin, GirlStart, Girls on the Run, Dress for Success and many other local organizations aimed at empowering young women and girls. Many of our members have dedicated further involvement in these organizations in the form of internships and regular commitments.
On the individual level, our members also have the opportunity to join our mentorship program with Webb Middle School. This year we have provided over 80 mentors to the school and have been able to establish a significant connection with the administration. Our members get to directly impact the life of the girl they work with by becoming a positive role model. We have been able to bring mentees to campus twice to allow them to learn about the college experience and visualize what it takes to make it here. We also provide activities and themed discussions for the mentors and mentees to deepen and establish lasting relationships.
Overall, GirlAdvocates! has been able to grow so much in its relationship with the University and Austin community over the course of this year. Last spring, GirlAdvocates! even received the “Best New Organization” Swing Out Award, given annually by the Office of the Dean of Students. We are excited to begin our second collegiate chapter at the University of North Texas this coming spring and to further expand our mentoring program and relationships with the community. If you would like to stay updated with or get involved in GirlAdvocates!, please like our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/girladvocates, and visit our website, www.girladvocates.org.
Canton is a neurobiology and nutrition senior from Houston. She is the president of GirlAdvocates!