Meet the Fall 2016 GENterns!

It is Fall 2016 here at the Girls Empowerment Network and that means — Beyoncé’s Flawless intro beat please —new interns! Or, as we like to call them, GENterns. Every semester, we welcome around four to six new interns to assist us in our programs of Direct Services, Project Management, Fundraising, Communications, and Community Relations. These interns brought a ready to work and learn attitude to the GEN team as you will read in the following GENterviews (puns are kinda our thing). So, without further ado, the interns this semester are Ashley Erickson, Hannah Steffan, Andrea Cuevas, Kira Freeman, Victoria Lopez, and Monet Stevenson!


Communications and Community Relations Intern – Ashley Erickson


I am a military child, so asking where I am from is a bit of a complex answer, but, I have lived most of my life in San Antonio, Texas. Go Spurs! I used to attend Austin Community College and then I transferred to Texas State University where I am soon to graduate in Applied Sociology with minors in Spanish and Psychology.


In three words, I would describe myself as outspoken, conscientious, and creative.


Why do you feel passionately about GEN?
The passion I feel for GEN is comparable to the stages one goes through when hearing a new artist. You’re intrigued when you hear the name, excited by what they do, and then you discover that they have been doing incredible work for a while. At this point, you have google searched their entire history and, being the fangirl you are, hope to befriend them one day. For GEN, this fangirl passion is influenced by the work they have done for 20 years, and continue to do daily. This organization’s work provides resources and programs to address the issues that impact girls, such as, body image, self-confidence, and relationships. Now, my fangirl self is excited to announce that my idol, GEN, has befriended me, and I can’t wait to put my passion to good use.


What was your time in middle school like, and what would you tell your 12 year old self if you could tell them anything?
My middle school years were like many others — awkward. It was a time that I was learning new things about myself; what things interested me and what didn’t (I also refer to it as my discovering Destiny’s Child phase). Since I went to a small school, middle schoolers, and high schoolers roamed similar halls and you could see the impact of peer pressure on many levels. Because of this, I stayed mostly to myself and often read books with my friends in silence, it was thrilling! If I had the opportunity to tell my middle school self anything, I would say that you were rocking those wire rimmed glasses, that your worth does not lie in your looks, and that having 3 close friends doesn’t equate to you not being likeable.


What are three goals that you wish to accomplish during your internship with GEN?
The goals I wish to accomplish during my time with GEN are to enhance my public speaking skills, learn more about the operation of nonprofits, and absorb all of the knowledge humanly possible while I’m here.


Direct Service Intern – Hannah Steffan


I am from Austin and love this city! Since I love my hometown, I also want to see it thrive and the people in it to thrive. Non-profit organizations like GEN are part of what makes Austin such a great city to live in.


I would describe myself as intelligent, tenacious, and passionate.


Why do you feel passionately about GEN?
I feel passionately about the Girls Empowerment Network because it has made such a huge impact in my life. When I first became involved with GEN, I was a junior in high school. As a high school facilitator, my job was to lead after school clubs that teach middle school girls about body image, bullying, the media, etc. At the time that I was serving as a role model to middle school girls, I, at 16 years old, was facing many of my own struggles as well. I was suffering from depression, an eating disorder, horrible self-esteem, being bullied, and was in a verbally abusive romantic relationship (none of these things I had yet admitted to myself at the time). The Girls Empowerment Network helped me become aware of these issues that were present in my life and gave me the tools to get rid of those negative influences and become the strong, confident woman I am today. While I was mentoring middle school girls, I was learning and teaching myself at the same time. That position also gave me the responsibility of being a role model and made me realize that I needed to practice what I teach. GEN also set me on the path to study psychology in college and helped me know that I definitely want to help girls for the rest of my life! If it was not for GEN, I might not have ever come to call myself a feminist. GEN changed my life and I hope to continue to contribute to the impact they make on the lives of thousands of girls.


What curriculum or skill of the GEN program do you feel has been beneficial, or would have been beneficial to your life?
The skill that the GEN program teaches that has been most beneficial in my life is media literacy. Honestly, I really wish that I had learned this skill sooner because then maybe, I wouldn’t have had such negative body image and have developed an eating disorder. Even as an adult, the skill of being able to look at media critically and analytically is extremely important as we are fed almost constant messages through multiple media sources on how our skin should look, how we should act, what we should wear, how much money we should make, etc. Unfortunately, not many people have this skill, mainly because it is rarely taught. If more people had this skill, makeup and weight loss commercials would not exist. It is very hard to not let the mainstream messages bother you but with the skills that I have gained from GEN, I am able to recognize how unrealistic they are and not let them affect me the way they used to.


What are some goals that you wish to accomplish at your internship with GEN?
During my internship with GEN, I hope to learn more about the operations of a non-profit organization, working in a professional setting, and the juvenile justice system’s outcomes with adolescent girls.


Fundraising Intern – Andrea Cuevas


I was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. I’ve been living in the USA since I started college at St. Edward’s University and fell in love with the city of Austin..


In three words, I would describe myself as an energetic, caring, and an open person.


Why do you feel passionately about GEN?
Because I’ve witnessed how the media misrepresents women all around the world, for example in beer advertisements by hyper sexualizing women which affects how young girls see their bodies and think about themselves, and sadly this creates a negative body image and low self-esteem levels in young girls all around the world.


How do you hope to serve as a relatable role model during your time at GEN?
By having a strong professional work etiquette, being persistent, and always staying on top of the tasks and duties I’m responsible for.


What do you think is the biggest challenge girls are facing today?
Feeling peer pressure to engage in sexual activities and high risk behaviors like drugs. Also, more young girls are developing eating disorders because they experience body shame due to the misrepresentation of women that leads them to think they have to live up to the standard set up by the media.


What are three goals that you wish to accomplish during your internship with GEN?
The three goals I wish to accomplish during my internship with GEN are to develop a strong professional work etiquette, a deeper understanding about girls’ issues, how can I help to change it, and networking for future internships and jobs.


Direct Service Intern – Kira Freeman


I lived in Killeen, Texas until I was 18. I then moved to Austin to work on my Bachelor’s in Psychology at The University of Texas (hook ‘em!). After that I moved to San Marcos to work on my Master’s in Counseling at Texas State University (I’m pursuing my Licensed Professional Counselor or LPC and am also interested in becoming a Registered Play Therapist). I am still at Texas State University but have since moved to Round Rock where I live with my boyfriend and our combined 5 (yes 5!) fur babies.


I would describe myself as open-minded, organized, and introverted.


What do you think is the biggest challenge girls are facing today?
I think finding a balance that feels authentic to them. A balance in “need to do” vs “want to do”. A balance between being helpful and kind to others while also taking care of and advocating for one’s self. I think that authentic balance can be hard to find and maintain but for me, I know I feel happiest when all things in my life are balanced. I’d also love to add that my answer to this question is always evolving. I’m constantly modifying it based on what I am currently experiencing in my life!


Did you have a mentor/role model when you were younger? What are some things you were taught/learned from female mentors/role models in your life?
My mom is one of my favorite female role models. For her, it was incredibly important that I do well in school and that that be a top priority. I will also say I’ve had a couple of awesome professors in my Counseling program at Texas State who have modeled for me how to be genuine and vulnerable and how valuable those things can be in regards to empathizing and connecting with others. They’ve taught me you can be a smart cookie and still make mistakes.


What are three goals that you wish to accomplish during your internship with GEN?
I hope I impact at the very least one girl. If one girl remembers my words of encouragement or remembers some empowering GEN language that I taught her and can recall it in a time when she is feeling small (and maybe she can then pass it on to another girl!), then I will feel like I have started a really cool chain reaction of empowerment. I hope to gain a better understanding of what challenges young girls are facing. What are they awesome at? What do they struggle with? And what do they think the adults in their life can do to help? Lastly, have fun and make friends!


Project Management Intern – Victoria Lopez


Hello GENation, my name is Victoria Lopez, project management GENtern. I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, home of Chico’s Tacos, the best tacos around. I am currently living in San Marcos, Texas, to finish my undergraduate degree in public relations.


I would describe myself as caring, strong, and influential.


Why do you feel passionately about GEN?
GEN’s passion to support women gets me pumped. To find an organization that strives to give girls the confidence and life skills to navigate through girlhood is astonishing. GEN’s passion inspires my passion.


Did you have a mentor/role model when you were younger? What are some things you were taught/learned from female mentors/role models in your life?
In my girlhood I had role models surrounding me, from my mother to my father, aunts to my uncles, everyone of them encouraging me to be the best I could be whether in the classroom, running a race, or on the basketball court. Growing up I wasn’t exposed to unequal opportunities because my role models were the strongest women I know, my mother and her sisters. As young girls themselves they had to navigate and adapt to a different lifestyle when they came to the United States from Mexico. They had to try twice as hard to learn a new language and adapt to their surroundings. Although they had bumps in the road, each of them went on to be their own type of woman. I have learned from my aunts that even if you come from a small town in Texas you can make it out to the big city and I have learned from my mom that education doesn’t stop when you graduate, you will constantly be learning.


What are three goals that you wish to accomplish during your internship with GEN?
This internship opportunity means more to me than just an opportunity because the work GEN does means more than just work. During my internship three goals I hope to accomplish are learning more about nonprofit work, the in-and-outs of putting together a conference, and what inspires girls. For the girls who believe in a cause: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything,” Albert Einstein, so let’s get out there and DO EVERYTHING.


Direct Service Intern – Monet Stevenson


I grew up in Los Angeles California until I moved to Austin, Texas at 18.


What was your time in middle school like, and what would you tell your 12 year old self if you could tell them anything?
When I was in middle school I went to several different schools because I was placed in the foster care system. This limited my chances to make strong peer relationships. However, I was able to focus more on my studies which enabled me to pass my classes. I would tell me 12-year-old self “look for the good in life.”


How do you hope to serve as a relatable role model during your time at GEN?
I want to inspire girls to believe in themselves and help them realize their own strengths.


What are three goals that you wish to accomplish during your internship with GEN?
At my time here with GEN, I hope to develop my professional communication skills, to learn more about KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), and how to network with other organizations

Felicia Gonzalez