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!) 


The Wrap Up

Hi everyone! I apologize for this post being a little late but everything has been kind of crazy. It's the end of the school year so I've been running around trying to tie up loose ends and wrap everything up. This past week of Girl Rising was our next to last meeting. Because this week's meeting will be devoted to celebrating our year together, I used last week as an opportunity to review and reflect on what we have learned. 

I made the girls a powerpoint to review all of the topics we learned about since October when we first started. All I can say is "Thank goodness!" for this blog because it made my life SO much easier. Here's a few of my favorite memories: 


So many things come to mind when I look at those pictures. My heart feels full and my mind immediately focuses on the immense possibilities of the future. I'll save the sappy reflections for my next post but this experience has blessed me beyond measure and I am eternally grateful for these beautiful girls.

Over the past couple weeks I've been collecting surveys from both the girls and their parents. I chose to do the surveys as a way to document my progress as a leader and as a way to prove that what I'm doing is working. I want to make sure that I am staying mindful of my mission, which is ensuring that girls can transform their hearts and minds in order to use their power to reach their full potential. It's very important to me that I'm not only making an impact on the girls, but also an impact on their parents. I need to make sure that what I'm teaching them in school is also being used at home for their parents to see. 

I asked the girls to answer the following questions: 

  1. What is your favorite part about being in Girl Rising?
  2. What was your favorite thing you learned this year? 
  3. How have you used Girl Rising in your real life? 

Their answers absolutely warmed my heart. 

  • "In Girl Rising we talked about being FEARLESS. You can always be that amazing person. Just do it." 
  • "Girl Rising has helped me use my self confidence when I play soccer with the boys."
  • "Now we are more confident. When we walk out those doors, we are not the same person anymore. Now we know how to solve problems." 
  • "Girl Rising helped me find the real me." 
  • "My favorite part about being in Girl Rising is that I feel more safe being a girl in my life." 
  • "Girl Rising helped me to help a friend that really needed it and I inspired them just like Ms. Martin inspired us."
  • "I have used Girl Rising by being strong even though people say I'm ugly or they put me down. They don't affect me." 
I asked the parents the following questions: 
  1. What changes have you noticed in your daughter as a result of being in Girl Rising? 
  2. What do you think has been the most meaningful or valuable aspect of Girl Rising?
  3. What topics, in regards to girl empowerment, do you feel would benefit your daughter? 
  4. Additional comments
 These were beautiful. Some of them definitely brought tears to my eyes. Their responses make everything worth while. 
  • "Girl Rising has been valuable because MaKayla is around girls who are inspired by each other in a positive way." 
  • "I have noticed that she is more responsible and believes she can be anything she wants to be."
  • "She has more of a positive outlook on things and is more open with her feelings." 
  • "Kymori is much more confident in her daily activities. Not only is a positive thinker, but she consistently helps others with their attitudes and positivity." 
  • "Girl empowerment is so essential. These young ladies are able to embrace their love for one another and create special bonds." 
  • "Thank you Ms. Martin. This has been a special experience for my special daughter and it only takes a special teacher to do this very special thing. You are amazing." 
  • "It is great to have people like you that not only help with their education but help them grow in life." 
  • "Taking these girls under your wing shows you go above and beyond to make sure not only you impact lives but these girls do too!"
Those words are so special to me. I am honored to know such amazing people that value my passion and support my work. Their answers to my questions validate me in making me feel like what I'm doing is worth it. I am more excited than ever to fulfill my big goal of inspiring girl empowerment not just in Houston, but all over the country.