Yearly Reflections

As I wrap up 2015, I can't help but reflect on the year I've had. It's been a year of personal and professional growth that has truly made my 25th year the most monumental year so far. When I think back on years past, I remember feeling somewhat unsatisfied because I knew that I wanted more. I wanted more relationships, I wanted more confidence, and I wanted more purpose. I'm aware
that those feelings are all a part of growing up and being a woman in her early 20s. I know that those feelings are not unique, but those feelings are an integral part of my story. If I could go back and talk to myself as a 20-year-old college student I would tell her to stop looking for validation in other people. I would tell her to find a passion and express it in every way possible. I would tell her to stand up for herself even when it means that someone won't like you anymore. I could keep going. I struggled with my sense of self big time as a college student. But even though it was difficult, I wouldn't change it. I'm glad I let people walk all over me. I'm glad I had no clue who I was. I'm glad I didn't recognize my worth because the struggle has created a presence within me that I never knew existed. My insecurities challenged me to find myself in a way that wouldn't have been possible if I had always been validated by the people around me. I know who I am now so deeply because no one wrote my story for me. So now, at the age of 25, I am a secure, self-assured young woman that is on a mission to be no one other than me. 

2015 has been the year of surprising myself. I accomplished things this year that I never thought were in store for me. This year, I finished my 2 year term with Teach for America which had tons of up and downs but I'm thankful because none of this would have been possible if I never made the jump to move to Houston. 2015 also began the branding of RISE like a girl into a real organization. We have a long way to go but I know that I'm proud of how far we have come in just a year. A curriculum, a Facebook and Instagram, a new website design, a logo, and 25 blog posts later, things are really happening! And lastly, on a personal note, I found someone this year has shown what true love is all about and I can't wait for the new adventures that are coming our way in 2016. I proved to myself this year that I am so much more than the life I chose for myself when I began college at 17 years old. I learned the power of never settling for less than my best. I learned that the world is an open book for me to explore and find my place in. And most importantly, I learned that I am enough and I deserve to make my dreams come true. 

My girls play a hugely significant role in my story. They carry themselves with such joy and confidence every single day. They believe that nothing is impossible if they put their mind to it and they have an "I can be anything I want to be" attitude. Their youthful positivity has given me so much encouragement throughout the year. Their love is limitless, their mind is unstoppable, and their voice is loud. I can only wish that I was half the person they are when I was their age. My girls inspire me daily to make this world a better place for them to grow up. They inspire me to believe in the simple things and find joy in the small moments that really matter. My girls have opened up a part of my heart that I didn't know what there. I love them so deeply and I'm am truly their biggest fan. I cannot wait to watch them grow into the strong, empowered young women they were put on this earth to be. 

My goal for 2016 is to stick with the people that mean the most to me, trust the process, and, most importantly, be present. A year from now I hope that I look back on 2016 with complete satisfaction and pride in what I've accomplished and who I have become. I want to take advantage of every opportunity and enjoy each moment wholeheartedly. 

"Wherever you are, be all there." - Jim Elliot 

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU all for supporting me this year as I have pursued my RISE like a girl dream. I can't wait to see what's coming our way next year! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year. Sending lots of love your way! 


Rise Like Misty

Hi everyone! I hope everyone is having a fantastic start to the holiday season. I know that I'm enjoying the return of all the pretty lights, the Christmas trees, and of course the music! I hope y'all are taking the time to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year with little stress and lots of love! 

This week's lesson was devoted to giving the girls another example of a positive female role model. It's really important to me that I give the girls examples of women in the media that show that girls can be smart, strong, and successful. Women like that are not always easy to find. For the modern girl who gets most of her influence from social media, they commonly see girls presenting themselves in a way that flaunts her body, diminishes her mind, and silences her voice. In "girl world" today, women are being put on a pedestal for how tiny her waist is or how full her lips are. But what's missing from that image is the impeccable beauty that lives on the inside - the way she talks about her passions, the way she smiles when she spends time with the people she loves, and the way her body proves its strength every time she steps outside. You can't get all of that from an Instagram picture. There are tons of women out there that exhibit more power and resilience than could ever be captured in a photograph. We need to hear their story. 

© Henry Leutwyler.  Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre: Misty Copeland is a professional ballerina. She is admired for being the first black woman to receive the honor of Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Unlike most ballerinas that have been dancing from a young age, Misty did not begin ballet until she was 13 years old. Before she was discovered, she lived with her single mother and 5 siblings in a motel room. Becoming a famous ballerina was not an expected outcome for Misty's life. She didn't have access to to the same privileges and opportunities that many other girls her age had. After being discovered at her local Boys & Girls Club, Misty's talents soared and she became a professional ballerina just after a year of lessons. However, her success did not come without challenges. She was told several times that she was too old and did not have the body to be a perfect ballerina. Against the odds, Misty rose above the limitations to achieve her dreams. She used the doubt to fuel an unstoppable fire within her. Misty continues to be a positive example of passion, strength, and grace. 

My girls can see themselves in Misty. She wasn't blessed with a tons of money, a family home, or a "normal" family. The odds were against her from the beginning and she had to work extremely hard just to be on an even playing field with her peers. And although those facts seems to set up a life of disappointment and failure, Misty had the one thing that truly mattered: heart. She had the drive and determination to rise. She didn't make excuses, she didn't give up, she simply fought for what she deserved. I know that my girls will face endless amounts of adversity as they grow up, but with role models like Misty and RISE like a girl, they can do anything

Let's make our strength the most beautiful thing about us. Because I am strong, I will never fail to believe that I am worthy of success. Because I am powerful, I will dream big and not stop until I get there. Because I am a girl, I will rise



Helping the Homeless

"It's not how much we give, but how much LOVE we put into giving." 
- Mother Theresa 

Like I said in last week's blog post, this week's meeting would be devoted to assembling care packages to give to the homeless. Homelessness is something we're all very aware of because we see it a lot here in Houston. We see them all the time on the side of the road holding up signs and asking for someone to help them. Our sense of privilege is stronger than ever as we sit in our climate-controlled cars waiting for the light to change so we can go wherever we need to go. We have the privilege of transportation to take us from place to place. We have the privilege of a purposeful life of to-do lists and people to see. But amidst all of that, right there on the street is someone in tattered clothing, holding a sign because they have no other options. 

A great lesson that the girls and I encountered during the privilege lesson what that no matter how much we think we know someone, we may not truly know
their story. We're all so quick to judge a person by the community they live in, the language they speak, and the clothes that they wear when in reality, we know nothing about them. We don't know their story. I don't know about you, but I LOVE hearing someone's life story. Their story is what really makes them the most beautiful. It defines their character, it enhances their strength, and it makes them completely unique. 

So, the girls and I talked about changing the way we all perceive the homeless by giving them the power of story. We won't write the story for them anymore. We will show them that we care, tell them that we believe in them, and make them feel like they are people too. Because we are aware of our privilege, we can share our privilege with the people who need it most. 

We spent our time on Thursday putting together bags of goodies! Because of the donations from many of you (THANK YOU!), I was able to buy 50 pairs of socks and plastic bags. The girls donated things like granola bars, crackers, fruit snacks, and water bottles. 

But, of course, that wasn't quite enough so the girls had the idea to write some inspirational notes as well! They wrote things like "You will overcome this" and "We care about you!" on hundreds of slips of paper. We were able to fill each care package with several notes that will definitely put a smile on everyone's face that gets one. 

It felt SO good to do something like this! The girls and I couldn't stop smiling the whole time we were making them. Each girl got 2 bags to take with them to keep in their car. I have some bags myself that I will be giving as I drive around as well. I can't wait to hear the reaction from the girls as they get to serve others throughout the week! 

"You have two hands: one to help yourself and the second to help others." 

Do something today to share your privilege with others. 


Serving Others

"Our souls ought to be on fire yet no one seems awake." - Susan B. Anthony 

Last week, the girls learned about the importance of being aware of their privilege in order to take control of their future. It was a really special moment for the girls. As they watched their friends step forward and backward within the circle, many of the girls felt saddened and even surprised as they learned about the disadvantages that their close friends face on a daily basis. In that sacred moment they learned that no matter how much they think they know someone, their real story may be completely different. 

My girls are some of the most loving, sensitive, and compassionate people that I know. I am consistently inspired by their genuine desire to share their heart with others. After last week's lesson, the girls went home and wrote the most heartfelt entries in their journals. Almost all of them talked about their desire to share their privilege with people less fortunate than them. It was so humbling to listen to their charitable reflections. These girls are 8 & 9 years old and they're already willing to jump into a world of helping others and making a difference. I didn't ask them to write about helping others - they did that on their own. Their souls are on fire and they are most definitely awake. I am so proud of the young women they are becoming. 

I want RISE like a girl to be 100% driven by the girls. I create lessons every week they are inspired by what they truly want and need. So, in order to align to their passions, we devoted this week to brainstorming ways to serve others. Timely enough, a coworker of mine actually shared a documentary with me that completely aligned to what we were talking about. The documentary is called CodeGirl. The documentary highlights high-school aged girls seeking solutions to their community's problems through technology. In the world of technology, 4 out of 5 app developers are male. CodeGirl supports young women entering a field traditionally occupied by men in order to make the world a better place. 

Here's the trailer:

In the documentary, high school girls from Moldova, a country in eastern Europe, were upset that people in their community didn't have access to clean water. Instead of standing by and allowing the problem to keep happening, the girls sought a solution. They created an app that helped people locate wells in their area with clean drinking water. 

I showed the documentary to the girls for this reason: when we see a problem, we fix it. We stand up, we own our privilege, and we use our voice to make a difference. So, the girls and I make a list of the problems we see in our community. Here's what we came up with...

Then, the girls met in small groups to brainstorm some possible solutions for those problems. It was beautiful watch how passionately they came up with ideas to serve others. Although, it's not common for women to be CEOs, business leaders, and other professional/social innovators, the girls are learning that they have what it takes to make a difference too. Our brain is worthy, our ideas matter, and our voice is significant. Little by little, we're breaking through genders barriers and making our mark as the empowered girls we were born to be. 

One of the problems that was super close to their hearts was homelessness. Here in Houston, there are displaced men and women on the street almost everywhere you go. Many times, you'll see them at an intersection holding a sign asking for money. We want to help those people - not by giving them money, but by giving them care packages to make them feel cared for and valued. Next week, the girls and I will spend our meeting assembling bags of snacks, water, warm socks, and kind notes. I'm so excited to work on this project with the girls. We saw a problem and we're seeking a solution to share our privilege and serve others. 

If you would like to support this service project or our other projects in the future, click the DONATE tab to make a contribution. The girls and I will be eternally grateful!  

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself to others." - Gandhi 



A couple weeks ago, the girls and I joined Michelle Obama's #62milliongirls movement in support of making sure that girls everywhere can have access to an education. We reflected on how our education has made an impact on the trajectory of our lives by finishing the statement "In school I learned ...".
Surprisingly enough, none of the girls completed the statement by saying they learned how to write a persuasive essay or divide double digit numbers. I mean, that is what we teach them in school, right? But, no - school teaches us so much more than that! Going to school provides us with the values to overcome challenges, make friends, and set goals. Getting an education opens the door to a plethora of opportunities that simply weren't available before. Without school, we wouldn't know what our options were. Without school, we wouldn't know that our destiny is in our hands. Without school, we wouldn't be able to use our voice to speak up for ourselves and others. Education is a freedom that so many of us get to enjoy without ever thinking twice. Education is a privilege

In RISE like a girl this past week, I decided to continue the conversation about privilege. To put it simply, a privilege is anything you have that you don't have to think about. It's just something you have - you didn't ask for it and you didn't have to do anything to get it. The girls already learned that their education is a privilege because it's something they just have and they've never had to question whether or not it would still be there. Their education is an expectation, a privilege. It's important to be aware of that privilege because it forces us to appreciate what we have as well as help other who may not have that same luxury. I wanted the girls to discover the many other social privileges that exist and how those privileges are affecting their day-to-day life. 

So, we played a game. 
The girls took a seat at the tables and chair in my classroom. I didn't tell them where to sit, they just sat down wherever they wanted. Then, I gave them a blank piece of paper and instructed them to crumple it into a ball. Finally, I told them that were all part of a new society and if they do one thing they can become super rich. All they have to do is shoot their paper ball in the trash can. 
Easy, right? 
Not necessarily. There's a catch. I positioned the trash in front of only one of the five tables so that only that table could shoot their paper ball in the trash can successfully. The other girls were sitting at tables that were either too far away or trash can wasn't even visible from their position. So, I let them shoot and even with great effort, only the table closest to the trash can was successful. 

I'm sure you can imagine that there was an uproar of girls saying things like, "That's not fair!" and "How am I supposed to do that?!" Exactly. It's not fair. But that's what privilege is all about. The group closest to the trash can was successful not because I told them to sit there, not because they worked hard to get that position, but they were successful solely because they were in the right place at the right time. Their luck gave them privilege. We discussed the feelings that developed from being unprivileged as well as the ways our advantages & disadvantages make an impact on our futures. 

Now that the girls had a firm understanding of what privilege means, we did another activity to show the variety of privilege. Social privilege comes in many forms - such as racial privilege, gender privilege, religious privilege, sexual privilege, socioeconomic privilege, and, of course, educational privilege. Our privileges play out in many aspects of our lives. Sometimes they work for us, and sometimes they work against us. To test this idea, the girls formed a standing circle with equal distance to the center. I read them a list of statements. Some of the statements described a privilege, while others described a lack of privilege. For every privilege that was true for them, they took a step forward. When the lack of privilege was true for them, they took a step backward. Here are some examples: 

If English is not your first language, take a step backward. 
If you identify as white, take a step forward. 
If you were born in the U.S., take a step forward. 
If you or your parents are immigrants, take a step backward. 
If you can buy new clothes whenever you want/need them, take a step forward. 
If you've ever felt like your family doesn't have enough money, take a step backward. 
If you're expected to go to college, take a step forward. 

Once I finished my list of statements, the girls assessed their new position in the circle. They noticed that some girls were now in the center of the circle while other were far away. I told them that step forward signified privilege and stepping backward signified a lack of privilege. The girls in the center are the most privileged and the ones far from the center are the least privileged. 

Now, the point of this activity was not to make anyone feel bad about who they are or where they come from. Rather, the point was to make the girls aware of their privilege so that they can use that knowledge to directly impact their future. The girls reflected on how it felt to be in their position in the circle as well as reflect on how it felt to see their friends in a different spot that they may have expected. Quite a few of them were able to come to the beautiful realization that even when we think we know someone, we may not know their real story. When we're aware of our advantages & disadvantages, we can use it to make a positive change in our lives and the lives of others. 

those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act - einstein:

Own your privilege. Whether it's a little or a lot, use it to make a difference. Don't settle for a life that is less than your best. Things don't have to be the way they are. YOU have the power to be extraordinary. 


The Crossroads of Should and Must

It happens to all of us - we're busy, stressed out, and we have a million things to get done before we can sit down to relax. We spend our days thinking about how to meet a deadline, what to make for dinner, and how to make our loved ones happy. We get so caught up in the shuffle of day-to-day life that we find ourselves just going through the motions without ever stopping to think about what truly matters. It's perfectly okay to feel this way but we're losing sight of something really important. 

Lately, I find myself asking: Why am I here? What is the reason I was put here on this earth? What is my purpose? 
I think the idea of purpose is something that evolves over time. What I thought was my purpose a few years ago is not necessarily my purpose anymore. If I'm being completely transparent with you, I have definitely been struggling with this a lot lately. I'm the kind of person that is 100% driven by purpose. If I don't feel passion for it, I don't do it. I've been a teacher for 3 years now. I like my job and I believe that what I do is significant, but my heart is with my girls and my organization. RISE like a girl is on my mind constantly and I am brought to tears whenever I even think about my girls. Without a doubt, I know in my heart that girl empowerment is my purpose. Those girls are my reason for waking up every morning and pushing towards my goals. They inspire me to love harder, dig deeper, and rise above any obstacles that limit me. RISE like a girl is my why

What is your WHY? 

I truly believe that we were all put here for a reason. Each and every one of us has something special to offer this world that no one else has. We each have a unique light within us that allows us to shine brightly wherever we are and make a difference. So, what is yours? 

I read a book this summer that made such in impact on the way I think about my future. The book, The Crossroads of Should and Must, is all about identifying your true calling. She differentiates between two paths: should and must. We can choose one or we can choose both. The trouble with choosing only one path, is that we tend to choose the path of should. "Should" is all about doing the things we feel like we have to do, or our expectations. For many of us, our job is a "should". We go every day because it pays the bills, but is it making you feel alive inside? Is it fueling a fire within you that you didn't know you had? If it's not, where's the joy in that? 

What's the point in being alive if you don't at least try to do something remarkable? 

Choose must. The path of "must" is all about doing the things that fuel our fire, ignite our passions, and give us purpose. When we choose must, we are no longer have a job but we have a calling. We're no longer going through the motions, but we're living a life that is exciting, fresh, and new at the start of every day. Our hearts are full of joy because we know that we're living our purpose and using our unique talents to be something special. Choosing must is choosing to not settle for less than your best. Choosing must is digging deeper to unlock our true potential. Choosing must is choosing JOY. 

But, choosing must isn't always easy. It's hard to break free from normalcy and do something outside of what's expected. When you choose must, you're also choosing fear, self-doubt, and vulnerability. Choosing must makes you open to other people to critique you and bring you down. And sometimes, choosing must makes you have to defend who you are in a way you never have before. I can speak from experience when I say that choosing must a super scary place to be. Creating RISE like a girl was a leap of faith. I didn't know how people were going to react and in the beginning I had to defend my passion more than I ever expected. Choosing must forced me to put it all out in the open and allow people into a special place in my heart that I had never shared before. I was terrified and insecure but when I look back, I'm so glad I took that leap. Choosing must has lead me to some wonderful places already and I know it will continue to get even better. 

Motivational Print Mark Twain Quote Chalkboard Art door LilyandVal: What if choosing MUST doesn't necessarily pay the bills or fulfill your expectations at this current season of your life? That's okay! My "must" isn't enough for me right now either. Although I would LOVE to just do RISE like a girl 24/7, that's just not practical right now. However, pursuing your "must" is a journey that we can build upon over time. For example, you can still fulfill your "should" obligations while taking the baby steps you need in pursuit of your must. And if you take those baby steps long enough, hopefully you'll be able to live your "must" full time! How amazing would it be to live a life where you get to fulfill your calling each and every day? There is no better joy that doing what you love. 

What is your MUST? What is your WHY? 

Stop settling and start pursuing the life you've always imagined. 

Sending you love and well wishes your way! Thank you all for following along on my journey to "must"!


Girl Haters

Yea, I'll say it... girls are mean! Everyone knows it's true. Girls have a reputation for being really mean to one another. From cat fights, to gossiping, to seeking revenge, as a gender we're great at making others feel bad about themselves. I've talked a lot about how our patriarchal society holds us back, but are we part of the problem too? Are we contributing to the way the world perceives women? We might just be. 

So, why do we do it? Why do we feel the need to hit each other where it hurts even when the rest of the world is already against us? The girls and I put together this list: 

  • competition - we have to be the best, the smartest, the most beautiful, and the most talented
  • jealousy - we always want what someone else has, we desire to be someone other than ourselves
  • insecurity - we're hurting and we want others to feel as bad as we do 
  • connection - we understand, we sympathize, and we know what hurts the most 
Whether we like it or not, we're all guilty of "girl hating" from time to time. Sometimes we do it to someone's face, but most of the time it's done behind their back. However, we tend to forget that our behavior, good and bad, defines us. The men and boys that are watching us being jealous, catty, and competitive are forming an opinion in their mind of what it means to be a girl. When we demean our gender by representing ourselves poorly and treating other women with disrespect, men are quickly forming an idea of how they think women want to be treated. When women treat each other disrespectfully, it gives men the okay to treat us with disrespect as well. In no way am I saying that is ever acceptable for a man to treat a woman that way. But if we can't even support each other, how can we expect anyone else to support us? 

Ladies, we need to start loving each other. We need to stop bringing each other down. In order for women to be seen in a different light, we need to set the example. If we want men to see as capable and empowered people, we need to act like it. We must do better. Instead of calculating when and how you're going to be more successful than that other woman you work with, support her and lift her up! How special would it be to stop feeling jealous and just feel genuine happiness for others' success? That sounds so freeing! 

We rise by lifting others. #wisdom #affirmations: RISE like a girl is on a mission to transform girl world as we know it. We want girls everywhere to have the opportunity to reach for the stars and make their own choices. This will never happen if we keep encouraging men to perceive us in a negative way. The girls and are committing to make a conscious effort to be kind and supportive to all women because we know that "we rise by lifting others".  

Instead of trash talking someone behind their back, let's speak words of love behind their back (and to their face too, of course). 

The girls practiced this by writing kind messages on a sticky note and posting it on someone's back. What a beautiful way to spread love and support! 

Together, we can transform girl world into a place where girls respect, love, and support one another. In turn, the rest of the world will respect us too. 

Let's stop hating and start loving
Fill your heart with all of the beauty this world has to offer by lifting up a girl who needs your support. As girls, we now how tough this world can be - why make it any harder? 

RISE above the negativity. RISE like a girl. 



62 million. 

That's the number of girls in this world that are currently not enrolled in school. Millions of young girls do not have access to an education simply because they were born a female. It's not because they don't want to be in school, but rather they are confined to the expectations their culture has placed upon them. In many countries around the world, girls are valued more for their bodies than their brains. Girls are tied down by the societal expectations that they are nothing more than a homemaker or a mother. The ability to carry a child is undeniably one of the most beautiful parts of who we are as women. But we need to remember that it's just that - a part. It's certainly not all we are. In countries all over the world, women are limited by a single value. Girls are not encouraged to seek other options because they don't know what their options are. Women and girls have so much more to offer this world. Our strength, our beauty, our resilience, our creativity, our intelligence, and our integrity deserve to be valued. 

This week in RISE like a girl, the girls learned about educational privilege. As a girl in America, none of us have ever had to question whether or not we can go to school. It's a privilege many of us take for granted without ever realizing how lucky we truly are. Education is an incredibly powerful gift that opens doors to a plethora of other opportunities. Education gives women and girls the privilege of financial independence, literacy, language, and emotional & sexual health. It gives them the tools to create a life that is within their control. Education allows women to reclaim their power, rather than allowing a man to do it for them. By simply giving a girl a pencil and a book, we are telling that girl that she is so much more than a body. Instead, we're telling her that she is a heart and mind that is capable of achieving her ultimate potential. 
Malala Yousefzai said it so well: "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution." 

The girls were appalled by how many other girls in this world don't have access to the same opportunities that they have. The girls and I wanted to do our part in this movement because the only way to create change is to speak up. As educated girls, this world needs us to empower other girls to break the cycle of educational inequality. 

"In school I learned I can make it, say it,
believe it, and achieve it. #62milliongirls
don't have that chance."  
Michelle and Barack Obama launched an initiative in 2014 called Let Girls Learn that was created to support girls all over the world by giving them access to an education. More recently, Michelle Obama has started the #62milliongirls campaign in which people can join the girls education movement through social media. 

Tons of people, including celebrities, have joined in by posting a picture of themselves with the statement: 
"In school I learned __________. #62milliongirls don't have that chance." 

In order to change the world, we need to use our voice! We cannot stand by and allow injustice to happen. We want girls everywhere to have the ability to choose their own destiny. We want girls everywhere to know that they matter and what they have to say is important. So, the girls and I joined the movement as well. 

"In school I learned how to be myself
and how to make a change in my life.
#62milliongirls don't have that chance."

My school district posted a picture of me joining the #62milliongirls campaign this week too! 

Let's stand up and stand out so that girls everywhere can enjoy the same privileges that have been given to us so freely. I am so grateful for my education because it has opened the door and given me the freedom to fly. Education has given me the gift of choice. Because I'm an educated girl, I have the power to make my dreams come true and I won't stop until I get there. 
We have to speak up for the girls who can't do it for themselves. 

This week I'll be sharing the beautiful pictures of my girls taking part in the #62milliongirls campaign on the RISE like a girl Facebook and Instagram. Follow us and share the pictures with people you know so that everyone can know about the 62 million girls that need our help. Together, we can let girls learn! 



RISE like a girl is officially in full swing! Today was our first meeting of the school year. The girls came in so excited and inspired, and I can tell how much they really love each other. It's beautiful to watch the sisterhood that RISE like a girl has created between them and I'm so grateful to be a part of it. 

I've been reading a book by Brene Brown called Rising Strong. I'm not that far along yet but the book is essentially about the power of vulnerability. She says that when we own our experiences enough to tell our story, will we have the ultimate sense of joy and belonging. 

I consider myself a pretty vulnerable person. I'm not afraid to share parts of my personal life with others. I don't fear talking about my passions with strangers. I have no problem crying in public if it's about something that truly matters to me. Within the past few years I've learned that the more I use my voice, the more freedom I gain.  Most of us walk around with shame on a daily basis. Shame that we're not good enough, shame that we hurt someone, shame that we've messed up beyond repair. When we hold all of that shame inside, we're allowing that pain to have power over us. Your story, regardless of how messy or tragic it may be, is beautiful. It needs to be shared. 

In her book, Brene says 
"When we deny our stories, they define us. We are the authors of our lives." 

A good idea becomes a great idea when you let it out | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses: If we never open up and tell our story, we're allowing it to control our future. But when we speak our truth, we have the power to create our own love story, foster our own courage, and write our own ending. 

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, I'm about to get super vulnerable with you right now. I'm going to tell a part of my story - not because it's comfortable but because I know that with discomfort comes growth. I am taking ownership of my vulnerability. I am the author of my story. 

This past summer, I practiced journaling. A lot. It was my outlet and it helped me decipher my feelings amidst all of the stress. One day, I was sitting on the couch reading a book by the woman who started a well-known girl empowerment organization called I Am That Girl.  In the book, the author wrote a personal manifesto. A manifesto is like a statement of opinion. It really spoke to me because it was exactly what I needed. I was dealing with a lot of loneliness and self-doubt. I was questioning who I was and what I was doing. I really needed a pick-me-up. So, I picked up my journal and wrote my own:

I am enough. My work is important. I am deserving of living the life I've always imagined. 
I am me. Every single day. I cannot be anything but who God intended me to be. 
I am enough. My beauty is enough. My heart and mind are enough. 
I have a purpose that wakes me up in the morning and puts me to bed at night. 
I allow my passions to drive my actions. 
The work that I do every day is important. 
I will make a difference. 
I hold my head high with satisfaction and pride for the things that I've accomplished. 
I choose to keep pushing because even though the road is long, my dreams will soon come true. 
I have a voice worth sharing. What I have to say is valid. 
My opinions matter. 
I choose not to let others talk over me. 
I choose not to let others think my words are insignificant. 
I stand up for things that matter. 
No one will make me feel inferior. 
I have the power to say no even when my answer is not well liked. 
I will speak my truth. Even when my truth is unpopular. 
My voice is special. It is 100% uniquely me. 
My body is beautiful exactly the way that it is. I accept my flaws and find beauty in the things I cannot change. 
I do my best to practice self-love daily. I honor my body by giving it good food and exercise. 
Instead of focusing on the unattainable beauty standards society has set for me, I choose to focus on creating a happy and healthy me. When I feel good, I look good. 
I am in charge of my own beautiful. Today, I choose to love me. 
I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a girlfriend. 
I have something special to offer to my loved ones. 
I give my all to the people I care about and I am deserving of their love in return. 
I understand that relationships require work. I do my best to make sure they know just how I feel about them. 
I let go of friendships that are no longer serving me. I hold tighter to the ones that lift me up and watch me grow. 
I surround myself with people that love me and inspire me to be better. 
I am deserving of quality friendships that appreciate me for who I am. 
I am worthy of love. 
Each day, I pursue challenge. I don't let fear stop me from pursuing my dreams. 
I keep a positive mindset because I know I have what it takes. 
I am confident in my abilities. My passion drives me to take on any challenge with a smile on my face. 
When I'm having trouble, I ask for help. I try my best to let go of control. 
I understand that teamwork is better than one. Sometimes I can't do it on my won, but I can do it when I allow others into my circle. 
No challenge is too big. I will find a way to make it happen. I have what it takes. I believe in myself. 
I owe it to myself to be remarkable and I won't stop until I get there. 

I can't tell you how freeing it was to write that (and share with all of you right now!). Putting it out there and making positive affirmations has made a huge difference in my life. The more that you say it, the more you believe it. 

I shared my manifesto and allowed myself to be vulnerable with the girls today. I gave them the challenge this week to write their own manifesto in their journal. To guide their thinking, I asked them to brainstorm some issues that they've been struggling with lately. The issues ranged from body image, to academic confidence, to friendships. I love that RISE like a girl has created a safe space for the girls to open up and share their struggles with one another. I cannot wait to read their manifestos next week! 

My challenge for you is this: Share your story. Free yourself from whatever you may be struggling with by opening up to someone you trust. Once you reclaim your power, only then will you have the privilege of ultimate self-love. 


RISE like a girl Weekend Retreat

Happy Sunday! I hope you're enjoying the new look of the blog as much as I am. It's truly an incredible feeling to see my dream come alive and I'm glad you're all along with me for the ride. 

Before I tell you about how AWESOME the retreat was this weekend, I thought I'd share a little background about the development of all of the new things that have happened recently. I spent my summer working in Norway as a nanny for a family that I tutored for here in Houston. I was away from my family, my boyfriend, and my friends for the majority of the summer, which I'm sure you can imagine, was super challenging at times. I spent a lot of time alone and I found myself craving a personal connection with someone in a way I had never felt before. Yes, I could talk to my family and friends through text and FaceTime, but it just wasn't the same. For a multitude of other reasons as well, this summer was most definitely a test of my resilience and strength. But looking back, I can honestly say that I am thankful. The alone time forced me to dig deep within and discover who I am and what I want. It gave me the space and time to dream bigger for my organization. It reconfirmed my passion and proved just how badly I want this dream to come true. The time I spent working on myself this summer led to the birth of the new name, logo, and website. Little by little, things are coming together. It's overwhelming, for sure, but exciting to see how my efforts are making an impact. One day, ALL girls will be able to embrace who they are, own their voice, and dream big. 

Yesterday was the 1st annual RISE like a girl Weekend Retreat. Sixteen out of my nineteen 3rd and 4th graders came out to a local park in Houston - I'd say that's a pretty good turn out! I wanted to have the retreat to kick off the year and make the big announcement about the new name and logo. It was great to see them embrace each other again. This club has created an obvious sisterhood between them and it's a beautiful thing to watch. My heart felt so full. I've missed those girls more than you can imagine. They have my heart. 

Here's a group photo of us! (I'm in the back but it's hard to tell because my 4th graders are as tall as me!) 

The new logo shows a girl superhero shooting up to the sky to achieve her dreams. It's kid-friendly, it's simple, and most importantly it sums up everything I believe in. It symbolizes power and achievement in a girl-friendly way. I love everything about it and I'm so proud that it's mine. One of the main purposes of the weekend retreat was to reveal the new logo and name to the girls and their families. So I decided it would be fitting to make the theme of yesterday's lesson all about super powers! 

What's your super power? 

What is something that sets you apart from everyone else? What is your unique strength that you can share with the world around you? How will you use your strength to make an impact? 

I have found that my strength becomes clearer the more that I realize my weaknesses. For example, I just started my 3rd year of teaching 2nd grade. Teaching is probably one of the most challenging jobs there is because it never gets easy. Every year, you start over - new kids, new curriculum, new schedule, new teammates. All of it is new. It's a humbling experience over and over again. Through these years of being a teacher I have learned that I'm not good at accepting change with the start of a new school year. It's really hard for me. Harder than most. Why? Because I create an intensely close relationship with my students that makes it near impossible to say goodbye and welcome another group. Every year, I invite my students into my world by sharing my life, inviting them into my space, spending my extra money on making them feel special. I tell them I love them on the first day of school and not a day goes by where they leave my classroom without hearing an "I love you" from me. I may not be the best at teaching my students all of the math strategies they need to take a test, but I know that I'm pretty great at making them feel loved. 

So that's my superpower: making others feel loved and cared for

I encouraged the girls to discover their super power as well. They wrote it on a name tag and wore it for the rest of the day. I encourage you to do the same. Wear your super power loud and proud. Allow others to see it from the minute they meet you. We all have a unique gift to share with the world. Someone in your circle is waiting for YOU to save them. Share your strength. 

The girls worked in teams to create their own female superhero. I told them to create someone that can save girls from the problems we all face, such as stereotyping, poor self esteem, and silencing our voice. 

They worked together to make superheroes that redefine girl world and inspire other to believe that gender isn't a limitation. 

The motto for the year is this - 
"Little girls with dreams become women with vision"

I'm on a mission to transform the hearts and minds of young girls into believing that no dream is too big. RISE like a girl is teaching girls to own their voice, embrace their beauty, and rise like stars. 
Join us on our mission to change the world!

Support RISE girls by following us on social media! 
Facebook - RISE like a girl
Instagram - riselikeagirl

Share the blog with your friends! 
Blog - riselikeagirl.com (<----we own the domain now YAY!)

With each follow, you are helping to get the word out so that ultimately girls everywhere can feel empowered too! 


Exciting News!

Hi everyone!! We are finally back for another awesome year and I have so much exciting news to share with you! Thanks to your love and support last year, I spent all summer working on making my dream come alive. I look forward to making an even bigger impact this year in the lives of my 19 deserving girls. It's definitely going to take time, but I'm proud of the work I've accomplished so far and I am pumped to share it with you today! Today's post is in honor of my birthday today. I know that my 25th year will be my best year yet as I pursue my passions and make my dreams come true! I am grateful to be able to share this journey with all of you. Without further adieu, here we go... 

Drum roll please! 

1. A brand new name! 

As I'm sure you noticed, Girl Rising is no longer. The name Girl Rising is unfortunately already the name of a well-known documentary. I wanted to come up with a name that was 100% my own so that I could brand it as mine and start my business. After much thought and consideration, our new name is RISE like a girl. I am totally in love with the new name and everything that it represents. (Check out the "Mission" page to see what it all means!) I hope that you love it as much as I do. 

2. A beautiful new website! 

Having the blog for the past year has been really special. It has given the opportunity to express my voice in a way I never thought I could. But honestly, as far as aesthetics are concerned, it was ugly. Graphic design is not my strength so I got someone to help me create my brand in the form of my website. I am so happy with how it turned out! It's not just a blog anymore. Now you can see my mission statement, parent & student testimonials, a donation page, and my contact information. 

3. A kick-butt logo! 

Ah! How awesome is my logo?! It's everything I ever wanted it to be. It's a simple, yet powerful image that completely encompasses everything RISE like a girl is all about. 

4. Social media! 

We now have a Facebook page and an Instagram to get the word out about all of the wonderful things RISE like a girl is doing. Please like and follow to show your support! 
Facebook: RISE like a girl 
Instagram: riselikeagirl 
Links to both pages can be found at the top of this page. 

That's it! I hope you're just as excited about everything as I am. These new additions are helping build the foundation to eventually make RISE like a girl my business. Please support the girls and I by likingfollowing, and donating. Your support truly means the world to me. 

Blogs will begin again in 2 weeks after our 1st annual RISE like a girl Retreat! Have a great week! 


Year 1 Complete!

And just like that, the first year of Girl Rising has come to an end. It's crazy to think how far I've come in just 8 short months. I created Girl Rising to make a difference in the lives of the young girls at my school. What I didn't realize, though, is how this experience would be just as transformational for me as it was for them. 

It's difficult for me to put into words how much Girl Rising really means to me. The girls and I had an end-of-year party on Thursday and I was overcome with tears every time I tried to talk about my feelings. I wasn't able to encapsulate my feelings correctly that day so I'm going to attempt to do it now... 

I remember the day so vividly: It was the fall of my freshman year and I just finished the first class of my very first Women's and Gender Studies course. As I walked back to my dorm room, I thought about what I had learned in class. We learned about how gender is a structure that is learned from a very young age. We learned that girls are told to behave one way and boys are told to behave another way. We learned how women are confined by this gender binary that is not actually fact, but completely socially constructed. I know it sounds simple but I never thought of it before. During that walk to my room, I was putting the pieces of my life together and the struggles I had experienced were finally making sense. The feelings I had of never feeling good enough were now becoming clear to me as a "girl problem" and not just my problem. I didn't feel alone anymore. I sat in my room that day with the overwhelming feeling that I needed to protect young girls from feeling the way I felt. I wanted to make sure that all girls felt comfortable in their own skin. I remember calling my dad on the phone soon after and telling him that I wanted to start a summer day camp for girls in the future. I was excited and passionate about it but I pushed it to the side thinking that it would be something I would do later on. 

I shared this plan with a friend back in September. It was still something I wanted to do, but being the perfectionist that I am, I was waiting for everything to be "perfect" before I started. It wasn't until he said "Why not now?" that it hit me. What was I waiting for? I had everything I needed to get started, I just had to do it. To be honest, I was scared. I was scared to put myself out there. It takes a lot of courage to put your dreams out there for everyone to see but I am so thankful I did. It's truly been the best decision I've ever made. I am overcome with emotion whenever I stop to think about what I've been able to accomplish this year. I've been dreaming of this moment since I was 18 years and it's actually happening.  I did something that scared me. I did something that I thought I couldn't do. Girl Rising is truly a testament to how passion leads to action. I believed in myself enough to follow my dreams and they really are coming true! 

At our end of the year party last Thursday, I showed the girls a video a made to chronicle our time together. It was special to look back on the year together and reminisce about all of our beautiful memories. 

I love those girls so much! Each and every one of them is full of such beauty and love that I try my best to emulate in my own life. I am so thankful for them because they have taught me just as many lessons as I have taught them. 

Girl Rising has changed my life. Because of Girl Rising, I present myself differently, I see myself differently, and most importantly, I love myself differently. My girls inspire me to wake up a better person today than I was yesterday. They inspire me to carry myself with confidence. They inspire me to nurture my soul and let my heart shine through. They inspire me to fill my life with joy instead of wallowing in the things I can't control. And most importantly, they inspire me to be something more. Those girls drive me to be my best self every single day so that I can set a good example for them. I want them to see me as the example of what they can be in the future. My heart is full because Girl Rising has given me the confirmation I needed to figure out my purpose.  I feel happiest when I'm with those girls and I cannot wait to continue to do this work for the rest of my life. 

So where do we go from here? 
The plan for next year is to keep Girl Rising as an after school club with the same 19 girls. However, next year is going to be all about growth! We are going to make Girl Rising bigger and better by branding it as an organization. I'll be working on a logo, a website, and a curriculum that can be used for other leaders to bring Girl Rising to their school. I am so excited about all of these wonderful additions and I can't wait to see what happens. My ultimate goal is to make girl empowerment my business. I love being a teacher but I love Girl Rising even more. Please reach out to me if you have any experience or know anyone that can support me with graphic design/website start ups. I'd really appreciate it! 

Lastly, I want to thank all of you who take the time to read my blog every week. Your support means more to me than you'll ever know. All of you give me the encouragement that I need to keep going. Thank you for validating my passion and making me feel like what I do is important. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You are loved and appreciated! :) 

(Look forward to new blogs starting in August!)