Contributed by: Daja Martinez
After a month of interning at Girls Empowerment Network, I thought I had finally figured everything out. I thought I already knew what an amazing organization GEN is and how awesome their programs are. After attending the first annual GEN Town Hall, I realized that I did not understand the true impact of GEN before now.
For starters, I found myself in a room full of a diverse group of women of different ages, races, and backgrounds who have all found their way to GEN through different avenues. I had a lot of fun speaking to these women about their experiences and their eagerness to be a part of GEN. Whether they had volunteered before or just came to find out what GEN is, everyone left with valuable information and their passion ignited. By the time everyone was done snacking, there was not an empty seat in the Work & Woof office. I was already feeling inspired by the fact that these women took the time out of their busy schedules to come learn about all the great things GEN is doing and they did not leave disappointed.
First up was Julia Cuba Lewis, the Executive Director. Julia fiercely spoke of the progress that GEN has been making and its recent initiative to realign itself with a distinct GEN brand. It was a refreshing experience to hear an executive be so transparent and candid about the inside of the organization. This included discussing the rises and falls of income, expenses, and net profit over the last 10 years, touching on economic hardships in the economy and how they bounced back. She also demonstrated the evolution of GEN over the years by showing off a benefit CD that was made, old flyers and logos, and past programs.
Julia went on the explain GEN’s brand realignment started with the Golden Circle by Simon Sinek to discover the Why, How, What of the company. They decided that their why is personal power, their how is increasing self-efficacy in girls, and the what is through their delivery of self-efficacy curriculum in schools, camps, and conferences. All these things came together to give GEN their new purpose: Ignite the power in girls. What I really love about this purpose is that it validates that the girls already have the power within them and it is our job to help them get in touch with it in order for it to burn strong for the rest of their lives. With this purpose, GEN created a new vision and mission statement in order to align and connect everything together (https://www.girlsempowermentnetwork.org/about-us).
One of my favorite things that Julia shared is the new strategic vision of serving 86,000 girls by 2020. Overall, I love being able to see how many girls we have already reached. However, I love even more that we are not complacent and we continue to grow and strive to ignite every girl’s power. This includes expanding through Central Texas, and extending our programming and reach to Houston and Dallas! In the meantime, I am really looking forward to seeing the new logo in October to finish off this realignment of GEN!
Next, we had the very energetic Program Director, Caroline Crawford, get us out of our seats and connect with others. Caroline explained the importance of connecting as a group through teambuilding and icebreakers which was a nice segue into Girl Connect. Previously known as clubGEN and the 180 Program, Girl Connect doesn’t silo or separate our school-based programs. Caroline explained that she loved this name so much because it represents connecting the girls to their own identities, peers, campus, and a bigger community. She also explained the 6 C’s: Confidence, Coping Skills, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication. After surveying the top Fortune 500 companies, these are the skills that came up time and time again as the most important 21st Century skills in the work place. Girl Connect allows us to instill these skills in girls starting as young as 3rd grade! That is incredible!
Caroline also shared important program participant demographics which showed how diverse and inclusive our programs are. With 45% Hispanic/Latina, 21% Black/African American, 20% White/Caucasian, 14% more than one race, GEN strives to provide an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity. She went on to share really great statistics that demonstrate the successes of GEN. For example, through the programs we saw an increase in confidence (79% of girls), skills to positivity work together (81% of girls), and the ability to say no when they do not want to do something (82% of girls). It is always great to see the results of what we do and the vast impact we make in the lives of girls!
She left us with her mantra that really stuck with me: “different experiences, same emotions”. Meaning, we will never understand what is like to be another person due to their own unique set of experiences but we can understand the same joy, sadness, or confusion that they experience. I thought that this was such an insightful way to think about how we interact with not only the girls, but with every person we come in contact with.
Next up to the mic was Ami Kane, our phenomenal Chief Development Officer. Continuing the same style of transparency, Ami spoke about the fundraising side of GEN. She explained that our approach to fundraising is to: 1. Have a diverse mixture of funds and 2. Uphold the highest standards of ethics and transparency. It was really interesting to learn the importance of having diverse funds so you do not find yourself dependent on one entity. She also gave us insight on who our top donors are, where the money is going, and what the 2018-19 budget is.
To end the night, Elena Carey (Development Manager) and Brittany Yelverton (Community Relations and Volunteer Manager) informed us about our growing giving circle, Girl Advocacy League (GAL). GAL allows women to helps ignite the power in girls while providing access to programming that helps them become unstoppable, too. They finished with a Call to Action and if you want to answer that call you should check out: www.bit.ly/wearegirlsaustin2018.
By the end of the night, I was almost overwhelmed by all the things I saw that helps make GEN such an impactful organization. However, more than overwhelmed, I was also inspired and excited to be a part of it. By the end of the night, one thing remained in my mind: Caroline’s mantra of “different experiences, same emotions”. Although every woman in the room experienced last night differently, in the end, we all left with similar emotions of pride and hopefulness that helped connect us all together. This is a key part of the impact that GEN has on us all.