Lack of self-confidence, insecurity, doubt. Those are the things one particular 16-year-old New Rochelle High School student used to struggle with daily.
“I was sexually assaulted as a child, and it’s still there,” says the student, preferring to remain anonymous. “Every day, I feel insecure because I have moments when I felt like I was a mistake in life.”
For this teen and others like her, there is Girls Inc. Westchester.
Girls Inc. is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers girls and young women. With programs designed for girls ages 9 to 18, Girls Inc. board member Fiona Bruder described the nonprofit as “an empowerment program to get the best out of what’s already inside of a girl. It’s creating programs that enable girls to be bolder, understand their rights and advocate for them, to give them a safe environment to express themselves and empower them to do so.”
Included in some of the organization’s offers are, according to Bruder, workshops on how to interview for jobs, college visits, sexual health education, and other skill-oriented programs based on their needs.
Among those skills is public speaking. Program facilitators alongside Bruder recently prepared three girls to speak, using the TED Talk model, at the Girls Inc. annual fundraising gala on April 10 at Doral Arrowwood in Rye Brook. Using narrative and storytelling methods, the girls took the basic tenets as “arcs” with which they created scripts for their presentations.
Then facilitators taught them tips from a TED Talk model, such as looking people in the eye, physical presence, standing still, and more. One speaker, 17-year-old Arielle Brown, received a standing ovation as part of a fundraising and awareness event that raised approximately $250,000 for the cause.
“It’s creating programs that enable girls to be bolder, understand their rights and advocate for them, to give them a safe environment to express themselves and empower them to do so.”
The event was stellar in more ways than one, considering the star of the Netflix series Grown-ish and Black-ish, Yara Shahidi, attended to support the cause. “What I love most about Girls Inc. is how global the mission is,” says 19-year-old Shahidi, currently a freshman at Harvard who has previously participated in Girls Inc. events in Los Angeles and Washington DC. “To have a community in which you can support really motivated young humans is always going to be important, because I think so many times we have barriers that dissuade us,” says Shahidi. “To see people who are committed to that support network, for my peers, is crucial” for them to feel they have the ability to “accomplish what we already know is feasible.”