Dear Girls

School has been over for about a week and a half now. I'm aware that the start of summer break is exciting to most people and while I am happy that it's summertime, I would be lying if I said I wasn't heartbroken as well. Since my very first day as a teacher three years ago, I have poured every ounce of my heart into my work & my students. In the beginning it was hard to stop thinking about them. I spent all of my extra money on just-because gifts, I missed them terribly on weekends & holiday breaks, and I told them everything about my life. They truly felt like my best friends. I know that sounds silly, but it's true. Although I wasn't quite as obsessed with my subsequent classes, I most definitely developed a love for them similar to that of a family's love. I love all 100 of my past students like I imagine a mother loves her children. The past three years have given my life more value and purpose than I ever knew possible. My students have taught me that my reason for being on this earth is to share my love to people like them. So, it's not surprising that the start of summer is always difficult for me. Where do I find my purpose when I don't have a group of little ones counting on me every day? But the most heartbreaking thing of all is saying goodbye to my girls. The girls & their families have been there for me since the inception of RISE like a girl. They believed in me, supported me, and encouraged me to work ten times harder each and every day. Those 19 girls are my everything. To be honest, I'm scared about the future of RISE because I'm unsure if I'll ever have a group of girls that are as wonderfully passionate as my first group. I can't imagine how they could ever be replicated. I wish that I could be there for them as they grow up, help them through the hard times, and celebrate their successes. I am deeply saddened by the reality that it will never be the same. I sincerely hope they keep in touch with me but even if they don't, I will never forget the lasting imprint they have made on my heart. 

To cope with what I've been feeling lately, I have written a letter to the girls to show my gratitude. 

Dear girls, 

Thank you for making these last two years the best years of my life. You are some of my favorite people on the planet. You make me feel so loved and cared for every single day and I hope I have given you that same feeling in return. As you know, I am only 25 years old so I'm still learning & growing all the time. You girls have taught me more than I taught you. The light that each of you radiate from within is inspiring. I aspire to be more and more like you all every day. 

I started RISE for several reasons. Firstly, I have felt a calling for helping girls since I was 18 years old. Secondly, I don't want any girl to feel as insecure and weak as I felt growing up. Lastly, I wanted to provide a feminist based education like I received in college but on a level that young girls can understand too. From the very beginning, you girls have soaked it all up. You've not only listened, but you've actually been able to apply what you've learned in your own lives. All of you go above & beyond in everything you do - I'd like to think I had a little something to do with that! But in all seriousness, I couldn't be prouder of you all. My heart melts whenever I see you interacting with friends & teachers and hearing about how you met your academic goals. I am honored to be able to watch you grow. Thank you for blessing me with your presence week after week and pouring every ounce of your love onto me. It's because of YOU that I have become the person I am today. You make me a better person and you are my reason for working hard every day. 

I want you to know that no matter how old you are and no matter what you're doing, I would stop the world to help you. I love you all unconditionally like the little sisters I never had. You will forever be my family. I sincerely hope that wherever our live take us, you'll remember me and keep in touch. But most importantly, I hope you always remember what I taught you. I hope you always remember that you are enough. I hope you remember that no matter what someone says about you, only you know the truth. I hope you never forget how strong you truly are even when someone (especially boys) let you down. And lastly, I hope that you never fail to use your voice loud & proud when someone is trying to steal your power. Remind yourself of what's important and love yourself first.

I am so proud of you and I will continue to love & support you forever. I am always in your corner. 

All my love, 
Ms. Martin 


A Beautiful Farewell

Well, that most certainly was the fastest school year of my life! Where has the year gone?! It feels like just yesterday I was blogging about our Summer Retreat and showing y'all the new logo. But somehow, we've already arrived at the end. This past year of RISE like a girl has been nothing short of incredible and I have only positive things to say about it. To be honest, this post is difficult to write because I have some pretty sensitive news to share. I have made the decision to leave Houston and relocate to Washington, DC this summer. Unfortunately, that means saying goodbye to my school, the girls, their amazing families, and the current condition of RISE like a girl. I feel lucky that I've been blessed with so many wonderful people during my time in Houston that makes saying goodbye so incredibly hard. If you had asked me to take a look at the life that I have made for myself when I first moved here 3 years ago, I would have never believed you. I created something from my heart and pursued it all the way through. I never knew I had it in me. I've taught over 100 students and I've tried my hardest to form authentic relationships with all of them. I got to share my passion with 19 deserving young girls and transformed them into empowered, determined young women. The impact everyone has made on me was unexpected but wonderful. I am forever grateful. 

Knowing that I was leaving, I wanted to plan one last "hoorah" for the girls and I. On Friday, June 3 we had the first ever RISE like a girl Banquet. All 19 girls, along with their families, came out celebrate the conclusion of our two years together. Everyone got dressed up in order to make it extra special. Overall, it was a beautiful evening for us to enjoy our time together one last time. I am thankful that all nineteen girls were able to come and that we were able to spend such a special night together. The Banquet gave us the opportunity to reflect of everything we had learned together and celebrate how much we have grown along the way. 

I prepared a video for the girls to serve as not only a scrapbook of their 2 years but also as a commercial for RISE like a girl. As you know, RISE doesn't end here. We must share the message with others so that ultimately, all girls can have access to girl empowerment. 

The girls also received a gift from me! Each girl got a gold bracelet with word "RISE" on it to commemorate our club and all of the special memories we shared. I even have one too! My hope is that is serves as a friendship bracelet between us that no matter where we are, RISE like a girl will always bring us together.

My heart breaks at the thought of not seeing the beautiful, shining faces of my girls again. I sincerely hope that we'll be able to keep in touch and see each other again someday, but you just never know what life has in store. I love each and every one of my girls as if they were my own family. Although I started RISE to leave a mark on their life, they have made an even bigger mark on mine. My girls have taught me three things: 

1. Love deeper. 
These girls love like no other. Without judgement, without background, they just love. They love despite fear of getting hurt. They love even when others don't. They love because their heart is full of joy. They love without letting the big bad world around them bring them down. They shared their unconditional love with me and now it's time for me to share that same love with others. 

2. Girl empowerment is my purpose. 

Since day 1, my girls have soaked up every single thing I've ever told them. They listen, they absorb it, and they use it in the real world. Their analysis & discussion of the topics I address proves that what I'm teaching is meaningful. Their parents have told me that I have changed the trajectory of their daughters' lives. I feel most alive when I'm teaching girls to believe in themselves and own their power. The impact RISE has created has proven to me that doing what I'm doing is my ultimate purpose. Empowering young girls to rise above societal expectations is what I was put on this earth to do. 

3. Success is simple. 
I tell the girls (and my students too) that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to. "If you can dream it, you can achieve it" is a a quote I've said many times. But as adults, how often do we get stuck in the excuses? We devise every reason in the book as to why it's not the right time or the right place to make it happen. My girls have taught me that reaching your dreams is as simple as actually doing it. If they want something, they go after it right away. I don't need to wait until everything is perfectly aligned to how I imagined it in my head. It's always the perfect time to achieve my dreams. 

These girls will forever hold a huge piece of my heart. I love them like I've never loved anyone before. Although I will miss them greatly, there is no doubt in my mind that they will make me proud. 

So, what happens to RISE like a girl now? 

It's hard to give a confirmed answer to that but what I can say is this: This is only the beginning for us. We have places to go and girls to empower. I am confident that RISE like a girl has the potential to take over the world and share girl empowerment with everyone. I want all girls to have access to girl empowerment. All girls need to know that they are worthy of power, choices, and love. I had a great start but I'm ready to grow! I'm not sure exactly how or when but I know that I will keep pushing until I get there. For now, I have 5 confirmed new Chapter Leaders at 3 different schools next year. That is super excited news! And of course, I plan on starting a chapter at my new school sometime in the coming year. The future for RISE like a girl has only just begun. Follow along as we continue this beautiful journey! 

THANK YOU to everyone who has been a true supporter of my girls and I from the very beginning! We love you and appreciate you! New blog posts will start back up again in the Fall. Until then, follow our Facebook and Instagram. :) See you soon!