Question:  What advice would you give your middle school self about confidence?

Aspire to be one of a kind, not one of many. The teen years are difficult, navigating middle school and trying to figure out where you fit in. I remember the pressure to conform. And LiveGirl has shown me how vulnerable middle school girls are today as they face adolescent pressures amplified by social media. My advice to my middle school self: “Be you! Believe in yourself!” It is empowering to let go of the fear and the “what if’s” and channel your positive energy to rule the world!

Question: What is one of your favorite family traditions? 

Family dinners. On Sunday nights,we power down all of the devices, make a delicious home-cooked meal (My favorite is tacos!), and we eat and TALK. We talk about our roses & thorns, we talk about current events, and we talk about the week coming up. Then, we play a family board game or card game. (Up & Down The River and Euchre are family favorites.) We all look forward to this special family bonding time.

At LiveGirl we teach our girls the importance of accepting oneself even when you don’t feel so sparkly … Question:  How do you respond when you receive a compliment?  

A compliment is a gift! I let it wash over me and fully embrace the positivity. And then, I pass it on! #PassOnPositivity

We believe pursing a passion is a great way to build confidence for girls …  Question: If you had free time to pursue a “passion project” what would it be? 

Girl empowerment IS my passion project. It is an especially important time to empower our girls to rule the world. I enjoy reading about “makers”, girls and women who inspire the world, and I enjoy being a positive force in girl culture and mentoring girls.

An important skill we teach our girls is how to identify how she feels about a situation and ask for what she needs to make it better …  Question: How good are you at communicating what you feel and asking for what you need with others?

(I think) I’m pretty good. I would say that I understand the value of social emotional intelligence and strive to label and express my feelings. I recently heard a talk by Dr. Mark Brackett (Yale University) and he introduced me to his Mood Meter app (where you chart and journal your emotions), which I have begun using.

Question: Social Media … Love it or Hate it?

Love it! Social Media is like Spiderman’ssuperpowers ... with great power, comes great responsibility. So, it’s important to use social media responsibly! But I love being able toconnect and build community with my LiveGirls on social media. I also love the ability to pass on positivity and inspiration @goLiveGirl. Also, I curate my feeds so they inspire ME! Some of my favorite follows are @Time @GirlsWhoCode @AMightyGirl

Question: What do you do to help balance your digital life and you’re your “real life”?   Any tips to share?

Put down the phone! And talk to my kids! (ps. My tip is to actually “power down” your device, so you’re not tempted!)

Question: When you look out into the world, who do you see as great role models for girls?

Great question! I admire Amy Poehler and the Smart Girls community that she is fostering. She is providing an important voice right now during these turbulent, political times. And I admire Serena Williams and Beyonce for their fierceness and confidence to excel on their own terms.

We teach girls to embrace making mistakes … Question: Can you think of a mistake that you made that led to great things – an important learning or a new direction?

It’s more of a failure than a mistake, but I was cut from my high school softball team and I was DEVASTATED. But it forced me to try some new things (I eventually found track & field) and it also taught me the resilience to pick myself up and try harder!

Question: Do you have any tips for pushing through fear?

Face the fear! Realize that the uncomfortable feeling in your gut is there because you are putting yourself out there, being brave, and on your way to kicking butt!!  Embrace the feeling as a rite of growing as a leader!! 

Transcript From Think or Blue Changemaker Interview
1. Hi Sheri, thanks for being a part of our Feminist Changemaker Interview Series, and for chatting with me today! What's the most exciting thing that's happened this year for you?

Oh, so many things! I am inspired every single day working with the girls and meeting all of the trailblazing female role models that we host. I must admit, I was a little geeked out to meet Jessica Long, the 2nd most decorated Paralympic Athlete of All Time. And I was genuinely excited to welcome bestselling author Lauren Oliver back to Camp LiveGirl. Also, we cherish our partnerships with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Connecticut, and so I was thrilled when we were named the Community Champion for the Boys & Girls Club of Stamford. I was also honored by Serendipity Magazine as one of CT’s Most Philanthropic Women.

2. You made a significant switch from the corporate world to founding a nonprofit dedicated to girls' leadership. Why did you make this decision and what were the biggest challenges you faced?

My background is in corporate finance and leadership development. I spent 15 years as a finance executive at a global multinational where I was actively involved in their Women’s Network and learned the importance of role models and mentoring. Five years ago, I created LiveGirl to “pay it forward” to the next generation of female leaders and advance gender equality. Women are underrepresented in leadership positions - in government, in business, in the tech sector, in positions of power. We are part of the movement working to close the female leadership gap by teaching girls at a young age how to be leaders.

3. You coach girls to develop confidence, not by whether others like them, but by loving themselves and believing in themselves. This is so challenging for middle and high school girls! How do you help them get there?

The teen years are difficult! Especially for today’s teens as they navigate adolescence in the digital era. We teach girls that you build confidence by doing, by trying. Taking risks and making mistakes is a necessary part of the process. And it all begins and ends by loving yourself. We do a simple exercise where we ask girls to identify 5 things they love about themselves. So many have a hard time completing this exercise, but we teach them that it is essential to be able to identify and celebrate your strengths, as this is the basis for one’s self-worth and self-esteem.

4. Tell us more about the power you've observed when girls come together. How do you leverage that magical power through LiveGirl?

There is a lot of research that supports the power of girls-only spaces. Especially during adolescence, girls need the time and space to reflect on who they truly are and aspire to be. We foster a positive #GirlsSupportingGirls culture, where girls literally clap and cheer loudly when someone shares out or does something brave. In this way, the girls learn the power of sisterhood and unity in a diverse community. We are bringing girls together from very different socioeconomic backgrounds, but they quickly learn that we are more alike than different. They learn that we are stronger together. These girls will be braver, more inclusive and collaborative leaders as a result of their LiveGirl experience.

5. LiveGirl is located in a fairly affluent region of the country (Fairfield County, Connecticut). How do you ensure that your program reaches underserved girls as well?

Fairfield County is actually a community of have and have nots. Some towns are affluent, but many towns suffer from poverty and inequality. The bigger point is that there is a binomial stress curve that exists, with low income and affluent teen girls experiencing similar stress levels. Of course, different factors drive the stress, but the result is similar mental health issues: eating and anxiety disorders, depression, and alcohol and drug abuse. So, our evidence-based curriculum and programs that build self-esteem and social emotional intelligence are important for everyone. We partner with public schools, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Connecticut, and other youth organizations to reach every girl who needs us. We work to bring communities together, to share and leverage resources, showing our girls that we are more alike than different, regardless of our skin color, religion, or sexual orientation. We are united by our desire to make the world a better place.

Sadly, Fairfield County, overall one of the richest counties in America, invests less than 10 cents of every philanthropic dollar in women and girls. We believe that investing in women and girls yields long-term social and economic returns for our communities and world.