By Nicole Vanderlee, LiveGirl High School Mentor
I first learned about LiveGirl through my friends, who, knowing I have always been passionate about gender equality and empowerment, helped me sign up for a monthly summit in my Junior year. To be completely honest, I was very nervous for that first leadership summit. I enjoy working with kids but I tend to get very nervous trying new things. I remember telling the other high school mentors to stick with me because I had no idea what to do. But once I got there, I immediately felt like I had found my community.
I found it a lot easier to relate to these girls than I thought. As someone who has struggled with confidence herself (haven’t we all?), I was eager to give advice and had no trouble connecting with the middle school girls I was mentoring. I myself experienced a very tumultuous middle school. Being able to provide leadership for someone else experiencing the challenges adolescent girls face gave me an overwhelming sense of joy. I was amazed at how much fun each girl was having and the smiles on their faces.
LiveGirl has helped me grow in a number of ways and for that I am very grateful. Since working with the organization, I have come to appreciate myself a lot more. I do believe it can be hard to be a girl. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on appearance, perfection, and status. Especially in grade school, these things can feel like your whole world. The unfortunate reality is that many girls internalize these values which often manifest in loss of confidence and self- esteem. It frustrates me that girls often lose this confidence and self-esteem during their Middle School years and I want to change that. Being a High School mentor, I was amazed to see how the LiveGirl program empowered these young women. As I began to connect with the younger girls, it became increasingly clear they looked up to all the High School mentors. I was teaching them messages of confidence, empowerment, and pride and yet I struggled with those things myself. What I came to realize is that I truly believed every girl has the right to be confident and empowered. It caused me to reflect and understand that I was no exception. How could I effectively empower others if I have yet to empower myself? Thanks to my involvement in LiveGirl, I now realize that every girl has the right to be confident and empowered, including me.
LiveGirl also helped me grow as a leader. I have become better at facilitating groups, energizing and including others, communicating my ideas, and speaking publicly. What I have loved most and hope to carry with me in college is the emphasis on female empowerment and leadership.
As a part of LiveGirl, I have contributed in a number of ways. I am a frequent High School mentor for the monthly leadership summits and I also helped start the LiveGirl club at New Canaan High School. I am currently a co-president of this club and host monthly meetings. Our meetings emphasize issues women face in today’s world. I enjoy the positive bonds and connections that have formed in our high school club. In addition, I am an active member of the Youth Advisory Board, where I am able to provide my voice on the direction, issues, and programs that LiveGirl runs. I read a quote once by Amy Poehler, “Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you and it will change your life.” I have found that in LiveGirl.