“I have been able to reach so much success that I didn’t think I would ever as a first-generation college student with Girls Inc.’s guidance and support. They have shaped the successful person that I am now, and I am grateful for that.”
I have been part of Girls Inc. of Metro Denver for approximately 6 years now. My journey started during my sophomore year of high school. I received an email about summer activities and internships that I could do during the summer, one being a summer internship opportunity at Girls Inc. of Metro Denver. I thought it would be cool to work in a place with women and all girls because it would take off the pressure of being in a male-dominated environment that I was previously used to all the time. I applied for the summer internship and got accepted. Unfortunately, the pandemic happened which meant the internship became virtual. I started out working on editing and revising SexEd content with another peer who was doing the internship and helping Girls Inc. with lesson plans. Since this was all virtual, I started attending Rise Up. This class was a social justice class where we talked about different topics such as colorism, women’s reproductive rights, etc. What started me going to that class turned into me leading the class. It was awesome to interact with the girls in that way and plan lessons and be able to execute those lessons. I also got the chance to become part of the board for the Transformational Leadership Ward. Another amazing opportunity I had was that I was able to testify for a bill that passed for the Colorado state legislature all thanks to Melina (Associate director at GIMD) because she was able to connect me with someone who worked at the ACLU. These opportunities kept bringing me back to the organization and the summer after my junior year, I was able to do a summer internship again but in person this time. Overall, the experience was cool!
The organization has also inspired me to be STRONG, SMART, and BOLD. During the social justice class, I had no idea what I was doing. I had never been in a situation where I was leading. It took strength to reach out for help and boldness to be able to lead the difficult conversations we were having with the girls that were not much younger than me. I was in a position where they looked up to me and at the same time, I was looking up to them because I had never done this before. This was a major learning curve for me, but I was able to be vulnerable and take consideration of their feelings and create a safe space for these girls.
Aside from feeling strong, smart, and bold, Girls Inc. helped me grow my confidence and overcome challenges. Looking back to my 8th grade or freshman year of high school, I lacked confidence. This was shown when the college application process arrived because I did not dare to apply to the schools, I ended up applying for and the feeling was the same when it came to applying for scholarships because I feared rejection. Another part of this also had to do with being unaware of the next steps when it came to college since my mom did not go to college. The organization guided me through the entire college process and helped me with the FAFSA applications. They also held workshops where I learned financial literacy and leadership skills. Another thing that helped was having someone tell me “Yeah you can do it” wholeheartedly who also had gone to college and received their degree. This allowed me to feel more comfortable and confident in my skin because I knew that people that looked like me could have positions of power. I realized the importance of representation through Girls Inc. The organization also did its best to help me with financial challenges. Once I was accepted into college, they helped me with moving out of state and buying things for my dorm all through the college shower. In general, I would not have been able to go to Barnard College and pursue a prospective neuroscience major if it wasn’t for Girls Inc.
In all, my experience at Girls Inc. has been empowering because I have seen people go the extra mile and do the extra thing just to make sure that everyone else around them was doing okay. Seeing everyone who’s there show up and advocate for themselves, advocate for girls, advocate on the political scale, and advocate for the entire state has been mesmerizing. I felt empowered every single time I walked through that door. The support that they have given is unmatched and I look forward to continuing that relationship because Girls Inc. is surrounded by positivity.
A piece of advice that I’d like to share with the girls from Girls Inc. Metro Denver is to take advantage of all the opportunities that they have. Even if you think that it’s not going to benefit you, just do it. You never know how your role there can grow. If they see that you are putting in the effort and that you want to do something more, they will give you the space and the opportunity to do that. Keep showing up for them and they will show up for you.