G.O.O.D for Girls, Inc (GfG), the White Plains-based community non-profit, recently launched a first-ever major leadership development initiative as part of its mission of mentoring young girls to become confident young women.
At a three-day kickoff conference held August 21-23 at Pace University, keynote speaker Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins— the first African-American and first woman to serve as Majority Leader of the New York State Senate— joined a group of other successful female role models including business owners and professionals in inspiring a group of 25 girls to follow their passions.
In addition to Senator Stewart-Cousins, the other presenters included Dr. Deborah Matthews, clinical psychologist; Alexa Pozniak, coordinating producer at CNBC; Dara Pinkston-Scott, Sales Director at Mary Kaye Cosmetics; Gloria Cunningham, owner of The Ambitious Soul; Shannon Alomar, Ms. Black New York and Yvette V. Miller, owner of Untethered, LLC.
Drawing from their personal and professional experiences, the presenters examined the characteristics and qualities of what it takes to be effective leaders, including strategies for building self-confidence, overcoming fear of public speaking and developing a positive mindset. Lori Stephens, GfG’s founder and president, said: “The girls were inspired to hear the presenters talk about the obstacles and challenges they faced and how they broke their class ceilings, perhaps identifying with similar issues in their lives.”
In addition to learning about the importance of team building and collaboration in all aspects of life, not just the workplace, the girls applied the lessons during interactive sessions with each other. They were coached by Retired Educator, Charlette Finch; Karin Elias of AVP; Jackquelyn Young, GfG Vice President and Ms. Stephens.
Taking their cue in part from one of Senator Stewart-Cousins’ remarks — “Find out what it is that you like to do - your passion - then lead with compassion”, the girls were tasked to identify and take ownership of a project that would foster awareness, address a need, initiate a change or have some other impact. The projects ranged from a Campaign to Combat Childbirth Deaths; Serenity’s Smiles to bring joy back to the school place; Spreading the Word at a Juvenile Detention Center; to a Beaded Jewelry Business where a percentage of the proceeds will go to purchase personal hygiene products for girls in a shelter.
The girls left the conference with a clear set of goals to complete their projects by next March. The participant whose project is judged to be exceptional in its execution will be rewarded with a $300 cash prize. The attached is a partial list of participants, their hometowns and brief description of their projects.
GfG’s long-term, one-on-one mentoring program/asset and leadership development program, which over time became distinctly unique in Westchester, started in 2009 when Ms. Stephens, a congregant of White plains-based Union Baptist Church, acted on a seed of an idea suggested by its pastor, Rev. Dr. Verlin D. Williams, to develop a mentoring program for the community.
Inspired by the idea, Ms. Stephens established G.O.O.D. for Girls, Inc. G.O.O.D. is an acronym for God’s Outstanding Optimistic Destiny for Girls which aptly reflects the faith and vision of the organization. From the start, Ms. Stephens has served as GfG’s president.
To date, GfG has helped about 80 ‘tween and teen girls in communities throughout Westchester to become confident young women. At the same time, it has forged a cadre of committed volunteer mentors, mentees, donors as well as allies comprising community leaders and prominent individuals in government (local, regional and state), education and business sectors.
Along the way, GfG has earned honors from professional organizations including the recent prestigious Children and Youth Services Award conferred by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Westchester Alumnae Chapter to an organization dedicated to impacting and improving the lives of children. Such distinguished recognition has helped GfG to attract corporate sponsors and secure grants to fund its programs which are offered free to the participants. Girls who qualify enter the program between the ages of 9 and 13 and remain with GfG until 18.
Ms. Stephens noted the leadership development initiative builds on GfG’s tradition of providing educational events like STEAM workshops and career fairs that are designed to open the girls’ eyes to future possibilities. “We are proud of the positive and indelible impact our program has made on our mentees who are on the paths to become a psychiatrist, attorney, pediatrician, digital artist, pediatrician, psychologist, among others.
One of the highlights of GfG’s Annual Fundraising Gala on November 8 will be a progress report on the leadership development initiative including an introduction of some of the participants and the personal projects they are spearheading. They will share the spotlight with some of the honorees--GfG graduates who are well on the way to completing college to pursue their passions and careers they have chosen and some of the long-time volunteer mentors whose lasting and productive one-on-one relationships have been the centerpiece of GfG success.
Ms. Stephens added: “As we plan to celebrate the Gala, we draw renewed strength from one of Senator Stewart-Cousins’ leadership development conference comments that speaks directly to GfG’s mission of emboldening each girl to believe she can make a difference: “I never let fear stop me from accomplishing my goal because I realized doing the right thing for the right reasons results in good things happening.”
To learn more about G.O.O.D. for Girls, Inc., order tickets for the November 8th Gala which will be held at 7 PM at the VIP Club in New Rochelle, or make a donation, visit www.goodforgirlsic.org.