GENtern Aarti Reflects on her GEN Experience

Contributed by: Aarti Bhat

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The opportunity to work for Girls Empowerment Network this summer was truly a dream come true. I had volunteered in one GEN’s after school programs, clubGEN, when I was a high school student in Austin. I worked with young middle school girls to help guide them through the unique pressures of girlhood. This being one of my first ever experiences in service, I was initially very intimidated. But, through GEN I discovered a whole aspect of my personality I had never really known before–an overwhelming desire for human connection and understanding, and to serve the community around me. Because of my amazing experience working with young girls through clubGEN, I became interested in pursuing studies in Human Development and Family Sciences in college. Marrying my academic and personal passions was one of the best choices I have ever made, and I owe it all to GEN.

 

I had been thinking about interning with GEN for quite a while, so when I was offered a position as a summer fundraising intern, I was beyond excited. This internship has expanded my passion for this organization even more. While GEN’s work in the community is fantastic, getting to work in the office side-by-side with some of the most driven, intelligent, fun, and compassionate people made me understand the behind-the-scenes effort needed for GEN’s external work to be possible. And a huge aspect of that is fundraising and donor relations. I had the chance to learn the ropes of fundraising from my amazing supervisor, Elena. Having never had any prior fundraising experience, my first day at work was pretty intimidating, but I am glad to say that I am stepping out of the office with a whole plethora of knowledge that will be applicable throughout my life and career.

 

GEN has opened my eyes to the concept of empowerment, above everything else. Empowerment is defined as “measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority”. I have realized that, because of the opportunities I have had in my life, I have been given a platform which I can use to be an advocate for others whose voices go unheard. Empowerment is neither transactional nor can it be self-serving. Empowerment is not about telling others what to do or giving out free advice or passing judgment. It is about providing people with the tools, resources, education, and guidance to help them discover their inner power and worth, so that they can become advocates for themselves and their communities. Empowerment is that metaphorical platform, one that we all have a responsibility to use, not merely for our own interests, but for the betterment of the world around us. We have the power and ability to use our platform to help others as they build up their own, brick by brick; and they in turn can help the next generation to find their platform and their voice. And so the cycle of empowerment continues, and the world becomes a more aware and inclusive place, bit by bit.

 

GEN’s mission–to support and guide girls to make wise choices as they navigate the unique pressures of girlhood–is one that truly embodies the spirit of empowerment. I have seen the difference GEN makes on the lives of the girls it serves, and on the staff who feel so strongly about what GEN stands for. I am beyond grateful to had a four-year-long relationship so far with Girls Empowerment Network, and I look forward to the many years to come.

Felicia Gonzalez