July Volunteer Spotlight: Grace Sorenson
By: Kirsten Handler, Community Relations Intern
Grace Sorenson has been dancing and singing since she was a young girl. Currently, she studies music at the Austin School for the Performing and Visual Arts to prepare for a career as a singer-songwriter. We at Girls Empowerment Network are grateful that she spends her free time volunteering with our Girl Connect program and working side-by-side with Chloé LaPorte, a Program Coordinator.
“Grace is marvelous!” LaPorte said about Sorenson’s volunteering. “Grace was a phenomenal volunteer at Forbes Middle School last semester! I’m so impressed that Grace would find time as a busy high school student to volunteer once a week to be a COOL, organized, driven, and relatable role model to the 6th grade girls.
“She is so warm and present with the girls and would intentionally sit with one girl who needed extra support and one-on-one attention. She was very interested in the girls’ lives and would listen attentively each week to the girls’ check-ins and respond with such compassion that the girls knew she was a supportive older girls in their lives.”
What first drew you to volunteering with Girls Empowerment Network?
I had been working with this mentor that was kind of helping me get my life together for college. She was really encouraging me to find a community service project to do. I have always been really big on trying to be a leader and being a role model. I immediately thought of girls empowerment because I like working with younger girls and help them find who they are because I wish I had that when I was their age. So, I just did a Google search and I found you guys and I liked how positive everybody was.
Tell me about a specific experience when volunteering at the school resonated with you.
There were two girls that were really in my heart a lot. One was super, super quiet and reserved. She wouldn’t ever talk … She would always pass (on the icebreaker) so I would always partner with her and ask her yes or no questions. I found out that she really liked reading and could tell she was really smart. She liked to draw and write. I told her, “Girl, I want to see your stuff … I felt like she had somebody that she knew was there for her.”
What’s your favorite part of volunteering with Girls Empowerment Network?
I personally really like being one-on-one with people and getting to be in a group of people … I like the approach Girls Empowerment has — “We’re gonna give you all the basics and you can decide what you want to do with your life.” It’s not “I’m going to tell you how to live your life.”
How do you believe Girls Empowerment Network impacts and empowers girls?
It helps them find their options for how they can live their life and how to live their lives in a smart way by making good decisions. They have that role model and group to go back to, and have a place where they can share things they need to.
How important do you think the group setting is?
I feel like if there’s a group of people that you can relate to, then it helps a lot with that comfort zone and breaking that wall down. Because you might hear someone else share a story and might think, “Oh, I’ve been through that too. I can talk to you about that later.” They’ll see they’re not alone.
How has being in this group setting with all the girls impacted you specifically?
It’s made me think about myself as a kid and right now. I think about my decisions and I feel a bit more responsibility to make good decisions myself because I don’t want to come in and give off a bad role model vibe, you know. I want to make sure that I’m being kind and I’m being responsible like they should be. It’s made me feel a sense of responsibility. I like having that sister feeling with them.
What’s a major issue today for girls that you see?
With younger girls, I think the self-esteem issues are really bad. Social media in my life takes a major role, especially with my career. It’s hard to see people making successes, and at a younger, middle-school age, you think, “Oh, I should be where that person is.” And they’re 25. But in your brain, you think you aren’t doing what they’re doing and you think you’re failing … Relationships with people is another issue. A lot of them don’t have good relationships that they feel comfortable enough in to talk to somebody.
Finally, if you could travel back in time to talk to your middle-school self, what would you want to tell her? What would you have wanted to hear?
I’d want to hear, “You can do it.” I think I did hear that, but at that time, I was still really confused. I was full-time dance, but singing is my major passion and it’s what I want to pursue. So, I would have wanted to hear that I can do it.