According to youth.gov, one in five young people in the U.S. are alone after the school day ends. The hours from 3-6pm are detrimental if a child does not have adult supervision, or better yet, mentorship. This vulnerable time after school, unless in sports, music or supervised by a parent or mentor, can impact self-esteem to a young person. Mentorship promotes positive behaviors such as studying, working out, learning life skills and creating healthy relationships.
What if there was a program that not only filled this worrisome time between after school and returning home, but also instilled confidence, emotional health and community for young girls?
Fortunately for Idaho, two sisters have dedicated their lives to empower girls of all ages with their mission to spark girls’ inner confidence. Girl Powerful, a youth empowerment 501c3, designed by Sonya and Tedi Serge, teaches girls social and emotional learning (SEL) tools to build a strong sense of self. Girl Powerful has mentored and impacted more than 3,000 girls nationwide.
Girl Powerful co-founder Sonya Serge says, “There are so many self-love and self-care tools that I learned later in life that I wish I knew as a young girl. To bring these lessons to girls, we empower them through our quarterly Virtual Self-Care Summits. We invite influencers, celebrities and wellness experts to guest mentor the girls. We work really hard on slating the volunteer teachers to keep our program fresh and exciting.”
Sonya and Tedi began their girl empowerment crusade in 2014, initially working in school districts and community centers in Los Angeles, California before changing locations to Idaho in 2020. Girl Powerful is quickly settling into local work here in the Treasure Valley. “It has been really exciting and welcoming starting to network and provide self-care workshops for girls and women in Idaho. We feel like our community in the Treasure Valley has grown really fast,” says Tedi. “Our program is very on point with the mental health needs of local teens and families. We provide tools and a safe space to be yourself. Most people leave workshops feeling seen, valued and heard. That is always our goal.”
Girl Powerful gained media attention after being mentioned in Forbes Magazine as one of the first brands to pivot their platform to meet their program’s needs during the pandemic of 2020. “This media coverage was helpful to springboard us into a national non-profit. We have girls all over the country who log onto our self-care summits. It is important for girls to hear from each other and share what they are going through emotionally, all while learning skin-care, cooking, workouts, self-expression, communication skills, journaling and more.”
“During the pandemic, it was important to us that we didn’t let go of the girls we serve”, says Sonya Serge. “Moving online allowed us to positively impact girls all over the country.”
Their initial foray into advocacy began when sister Tedi (a former teacher) noticed how much free time at school was used mediating girls at lunch and recess. Girls’ issues always came back to lack of communication, lack of compromise and low self-esteem. Sensing a need to prevent these school yard problems, the sisters partnered up together with a direct mission to resolve these ongoing and common issues, especially with younger, more impressionable girls. “We grew up going to after school programs and they kept us out of trouble. Research shows children gain self-esteem when they feel seen by adults outside of the home like mentors, coaches and teachers, and we experienced this firsthand as young girls.“
Building a safe space for young girls is critical for their program’s success. It begins by developing trust. “We always start our class by asking, ‘What’s one good thing that happened today?’ Then work in our Girl Powerful! Journal opens the space to self-reflect and work on our emotional health.” Sonya explains,” The girls write down their feelings, goals, and identify their strengths and abilities. Journal entries include topics such as creating our core values; friendship, respect, risk-taking, making healthy decisions and goal setting.”
But Girl Powerful is not just all talk and workbooks. The program is also interactive, encouraging the girls to move their bodies through workout games and dance, which brings a sense of fun, spontaneity and releases feel-good chemicals.
Ironically, instead of falling victim to the woes of the pandemic, it was their courageous rise from the adversity of COVID-19 that provided an unexpected silver lining for Girl Powerful: a strong online presence.
Shifting gears into a fully-immersed online experience also brought about the creation of The Girl Powerful Podcast which hosts guests ranging from members of Bachelor Nation, Bravolebrities, pro-athletes, wellness gurus, and female founders. Season two will be released in Spring 2022. “The Girl Powerful Podcast helped us grow our students and visibility online so we can attract mentors that have a big online presence. Awareness is key when you are a non-profit and count on heavy hitter guest teachers and donors,” says Tedi.
Interested in learning more? Check out Girl Powerful on Instagram and Facebook @GirlPowerfulProject. Girl Powerful journals and affirmation card decks are available to purchase online and are a great resource for mentors, educators, social workers and parents. Shop Girl Powerful Journals, Affirmation Card Decks and Workshops at www.girlpowerful.org.
PULL QUOTE: “It has been really exciting and welcoming starting to network and provide self-care workshops for girls and women in Idaho. We feel like our community in the Treasure Valley has grown really fast,” says Tedi.