Hashtag Blessed

Hi hi! Unfortunately, another school year is rapidly coming to a close. Even though I haven't posted, we have still been meeting weekly. In the past month, we watched part of a documentary about a young girl in Africa and discussed the realities of her life. The following week was a question and answer session where the girls could anonymously ask me any question about being a girl/their body and I answered all of their questions. Lately I've been busy preparing for our very first RISE like a girl banquet this Friday. I invited all of the girls and their parents to my apartment clubhouse to celebrate all of the beautiful memories we have made together over the past 2 years. Half of my girls are graduating from elementary school and moving on to middle school so it's really important to me that we cherish our last moments together. 

While we're on the topic of special moments, let's take a walk down memory lane...

The photo on top was taken during our very first meeting. It feels like a million years ago. There's even a couple girls in that photo that didn't continue after that meeting. I was excited about the opportunity to teach what I learned in college to this bright-eyed group of 2nd and 3rd graders. The girls barely knew each other and I had never had that particular group all in one room before.  I had almost no expectations going into it because I honestly didn't know if they were even going to like it. My only goal was to create a space of growth and discussion in which growing up could be a little bit easier.  

The bottom photo tells a different story. This photo shows nineteen empowered young women that are redefining girl world every single day. Their sisterhood is obvious, their bond is unbreakable, and their future is in their hands. Over the last 2 years, they have lead insightful discussions about racial inequality, the glass ceiling, and social privilege. My relationship with them has grown into something much more than I ever imagined. They are not only my (former) students, but they are my family. I used to think that RISE was about me teaching them, but in reality, their presence in my life has been my greatest lesson. 

These girls have my heart. Sometimes when I look around and listen to them speak, I can't help but think about how blessed I am. 
I created this. I did! How cool!  
Every minute that I spend creating lessons, writing blogs, posting on social media, and meeting with the girls proves that I am living my dream. I really am. RISE has become something way more than I thought possible back when that first picture was taken. I never thought that I'd be having students and parents begging me to get an opportunity to be in RISE like a girl. I never could have dreamt of the complete transformation I've witnessed as my girls have grown into the most beautiful people I've ever met. And lastly, I never would have predicted the impact they have made on me. My life is forever changed because of the way my girls & their families have welcomed me, validated me, and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I am incredibly blessed. 

And thank YOU for loving and supporting us. Whether it's from reading my blogs, to liking my Facebook posts, to buying a shirt, your dedication is truly appreciated. Blessings on blessings on blessings! 

Check back this weekend for a special surprise! 


You Cannot Define Me

"Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined." 
- Toni Morrison  

How would you define yourself? You might say something like: friendly, compassionate, intelligent, determined - you know, all the buzz-words we like to use about ourselves. But, who's definition is this? It's yours! Would your mom have the same definition? What about your close friend? Your enemy? Maybe not. You see, the definition of YOU depends on who is writing the definition. It depends on their perspective. If they like you, their definition will most likely be similar to yours. If it's someone you've burned a bridge with, I bet their definition of you would be vastly different. Definitions are created by the person doing the defining. They are not static, they are not absolute. These "labels" that people assign to us belong to them, not us. Someone's definition of you says more about them than it does about you. Only YOU are in control of YOU. We cannot accept them for truth unless we give them the power to be true. The only definition we can accept as truth is the one that we write ourselves. You are entirely up to you. 

A common word that most of us get wrong all the time is beauty. We allow magazines, Instagram posts, and reality television to define it for us. We accept Hollywood's beauty standards for truth and try to squeeze ourselves into their discriminating definition. But when we look in the mirror and don't see the beauty that we see on the celebrities, it's hard to imagine where we belong. Many of us find ourselves thinking: Well, I don't look like her and if that's what beauty is then I definitely don't have it or I'm anything but that. It's easy to feel like an "other" when we can't see ourselves in someone else's limited definition. We must rewrite the definition so that it includes someone as beautiful as you! Only you can decide what is and is not beautiful. 

At RISE like a girl this week, the girls and I decided to take some common definitions into our own hands. We cannot accept the way someone else defines it because we know it only applies to us if we write it. It's all about redefining what is valuable and making sure that we're included in the definition. I chose 5 words for girls to redefine in an inclusive, new way. Below, I compare the common dictionary definition to the definitions that the girls came up with. 

Dictionary definition - (adj.) pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically; of a very high standard

Our definition - (adj.) being yourself; the qualities that someone has on the inside

Dictionary definition - (adj.) having or showing a quick-witted intelligence 

Our definition - (adj.) knowing a lot of things but not showing off; showing what you know in your own way

Dictionary definition - (noun) a female child 

Our definition - (noun) someone who has many options of what they want to be and believes in equality 

Dictionary definition - (adj.) having the power to move heavy weights or perform physically demanding tasks 

Our definition - (adj.) bring able to mentally overcome anything; being positive when someone brings them down

RISE like a girl (hehe I had to do it!)
Dictionary definition - (noun) it doesn't exist...yet! 

Our definition - (noun) an organization that helps girls rise above society's expectations of a female; a support system for girls that one day will become exceptional women

Never let someone else define your identity. There is no one else in this world that knows YOU better YOU! Embrace your individuality, make your own rules, and live the life that you've always imagined. 
You are entirely up to you.

Sending you all my love!