The Wonder Women of GENthusiast Society
Contributed by: Courtney Grams, Arielle Scherr, and Ar’Sheill Monsanto, GENthusiast Society Communications Committee
GEN’s brand new mission is to ignite the power in girls by teaching them the skills to thrive and believe in their ability to be unstoppable. We’re featuring some of our very own GENthusiast Society members, asking them to share their advice for girls, learning more about what makes them feel unstoppable, and how they support their communities. Read more about their superpowers in this inspirational blog post!
To learn more about the GENthusiast Society and to join this giving circle and shared-interest group for supporters of Girls Empowerment Network, visit our website or contact Elena Carey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danielle Bryan, Founder of DragonFit Virtual Empowerment Sisterhood, SuperWoman Coach & Meditation Teacher
Danielle’s superpower: My superpower is my ability to create connection within and without myself. Whether it’s the women I work with and teach how to take care of their bodies, or the people who attend retreats with me and become lifelong friends. That’s what I LOVE about GEN; you create connection among our next generation of women – it’s amazing!
How Danielle supports her community: I use my superpower to coach and work with women through nutrition, meditation, exercise, adventure and just listening to them. I genuinely care for the people I work with and I want to stop internal suffering in our communities, so this is my vehicle to do that! I LOVE seeing women take control of their health and get empowered to live a purpose-driven life. Sharing their enthusiasm and victories brings me such great joy and keeps me working hard on my dreams.
Danielle feels unstoppable when: Any time I follow my heart, push myself past my limits, go on a fun adventure or open up my heart and let myself be vulnerable, I feel unstoppable! Most recently, while visiting my best friend in Alaska, we backpacked 20 miles through the mountains. We had some bear dangers, bugs eating us alive, cold nights and (most importantly) an INCREDIBLE time. Finishing that 20 mile hike with everything I needed on my back, made me feel very unstoppable.
Danielle’s advice to girls: In anything you do, be authentically YOU! If you have a servant heart and want to help the community, figure out what makes you feel happy and alive. Your gifts are special to you! Embrace everything that makes you weird, kooky, fun and real! You will help so many people around you by just smiling, listening and being you. And always remember that hard work is good work. Work hard for your dreams and for others, and you’ll always be able to find happiness.
Sara Jane Fogarty, Daniller + Company Project Manager
Sara Jane’s superpower: Positivity and organization
How Sara Jane supports her community: The greatest thing I can do to help the community is to get involved. My hope is that by showing my network how much joy volunteering brings me, I encourage others to do the same. One of my primary volunteer commitments is serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for a child in the foster care system through CASA of Travis County. I love spending time with the kids and families on my case, but I have the most impact simply by keeping information organized and streamlining the communication between all of the professionals involved.
Sara Jane feels unstoppable when: I once had the opportunity to hear Wendy Davis speak at a Young Women’s Alliance Speaker Series event. Prior to beginning her talk, she called me out by name and thanked me for my work with CASA of Travis County. It was awesome.
Sara Jane’s advice to girls: Don’t listen to the voice in your head that tells you that you’re too small to make a difference in such a big world. It’s true you can’t do everything, fix everything, or solve every problem. But you can do something… and that matters. I’d also like to share a mantra that my best friend taught me. I often repeat it to myself, if ever I’m feeling small: “You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how incredibly enough you are.”
Shaady Ghadessy, Snap Kitchen Brand Manager
Shaady’s superpower: Connecting people. I started my career in the nonprofit world and learned very quickly how important a personal reference or recommendation goes. I’ve taken special note to stay connected to my network and always be connecting my friends and colleagues. If I’m talking to someone and I think a friend of mine can assist them, I always take the opportunity to connect them – I’ve made many a fruitful relationship this way and always strive to pay it forward. You never know how one intro can impact a person or organization they’re involved in down the line.
How Shaady supports her community: I’ve been very fortunate to build a great network. I use my “superpower” to connect causes that I’m passionate about to people that I think can benefit from meeting them – I work to offer and make those intros and watch the true magic happen when they become donors or advocates because they’re now passionate about the cause as well.
Shaady feels unstoppable when: When I worked at W Hotels, there were opportunities to go help out sister properties. I had one of those opportunities towards the end of my time there where I worked at our South Beach property while managing Austin. I was also on the verge of accepting a new role in NYC and prepping for that move, planning a swim week activation in South Beach, AND keeping Austin afloat with summer pool parties. It was overwhelming at the time, but I remember managing it all while feeling completely unstoppable as I embarked on a new chapter in my career.
Shaady’s advice to girls: Show up to the causes that you’re truly passionate about, not the ones that you think will look best on your resume. The passion has to be there. And when you do show up be open to doing whatever is needed – whether that’s volunteering for a post-event clean-up committee, fundraising calls, etc. The more open you are to jumping right in and showing your strengths the more you’ll get out of the organization and the more connected you will feel.
Whitney Mack, Senior Litigation Counsel
Whitney’s superpower: To listen, then counsel business professionals on their legal options.
How Whitney supports her community: I try to help out by listening without judgment and encouraging members of our community. I love giving a good pep talk!
Whitney feels unstoppable when: After I delivered a closing argument during my first trial, and the judge read her decision in front of my happy clients. There is no feeling like that in the world.
Whitney’s advice to girls: Try to find an organization or a cause that meets at the intersection of what you enjoy and where you excel or have special knowledge or skills.
Vicky Pridgen, UT Austin Outreach Coordinator
Vicky’s superpower: Connecting humans to causes, resources, and other humans.
How Vicky supports her community: I’m pretty passionate about volunteering and doing what I can to help strengthen the fabric of our community. I serve on the board of the Heart of Texas Peace Corps Association, a network of returned Peace Corps volunteers living in Central Texas, and it’s always an awesome feeling to be able to plug someone into a relevant job opportunity, community resource or upcoming event.
Vicky feels unstoppable when: I feel my most unstoppable when I’m surrounded by other people that are excited about working together to make their community a better place. That’s probably why I really enjoy meeting new people every time that I attend a GENthusiast event!
Vicky’s advice to girls: I love the saying, “Strong women lift each other up”!
Annie Ray, Portrait/Food/Lifestyle Photographer
Annie’s superpower: I’m an inquisitive person, so I love the fact that being a photographer allows me to really get to know the people and companies I get to photograph. I’m really into finding people’s’ true selves. I feel like I make people comfortable, so I can really bring out natural emotion. That means all their weirdness, silliness, and greatness.
How Annie supports her community: I recently had a dream job — an opportunity to shoot the “Faces of Austin” by taking environmental portraits for the Visit Austin — and one of the women I shot ended up crying because she had never had her portrait taken. She was just honored and awestruck that people were going to know her story. To me if was more than just doing my job, I was celebrating someone’s accomplishments with the world.
Annie feels unstoppable when: Every time I talk to the inspiring people in my life, like my best friends, my husband, and my parents. I have so much support around me I owe that to the people in my life that listen and give me feedback.
Annie’s advice to girls: Never give up. Know that good things take time, so allow yourself that time you need. My parents were self-made entrepreneurs who invested the little savings they had into the business, and after one relationship at a time, they succeeded. It’s taken me a long time to build a business, but it’s because I knew I had to start small and build from there. Be thankful for every opportunity you get, and treat every job like gold, and it will lead to you working for yourself in a place you love.
Erin Shinn, Law Office Owner & Criminal Defense Attorney
Erin’s superpower: My professional superpower is compassion. Everyone accused of a crime is a human being with a different story, and connecting with that often allows me to get my clients better outcomes.
How Erin supports her community: People waiting for trial often can’t afford to post bail. I spend a lot of my day talking judges into letting people out who would not otherwise get released because I don’t think being poor is a reason to be incarcerated, especially before you have even been convicted.
Erin feels unstoppable when: I recently got some assault cases dismissed for a woman who turned out to be the one being abused. It took a lot of investigation and negotiation to reveal the true story and when it was over, I almost couldn’t believe the great outcome myself!
Erin’s advice to girls: Think about people who are different from you and find a place to meet them. This could be attending an Indian Holi Festival or volunteering at a food bank, but interacting with different sections of the community is a great way to see who needs your help.
Emilee Whitesell, Director of Austin Youth Kitchen, GirlForward Mentor & National Flood Insurance Program Claims Adjuster
Emilee’s superpower: I’m proud to say my superpower is staying very calm and remaining extremely optimistic. This is something I’ve spent years working on, because my default mode used to be “panic now, find a solution later.”
How Emilee supports her community: I think all of us, especially those of us in the nonprofit field, could benefit from a serious daily dose of optimism! When I look at the current state of affairs in the world, our country and even in Austin, it’s easy to feel defeated or like you’re fighting for a hopeless cause. Staying optimistic helps me worry about today’s issues today. I may not know how to solve the refugee crisis, but today I’m pretty optimistic I can help one refugee girl succeed in school and feel welcome in our community.
Emilee feels unstoppable when: A few years ago I was helping to organize a fundraiser for The Amala Foundation’s Global Youth Peace Summit (GYPS). Friends and I were calling around to local businesses asking for donations for a silent auction. At first, we didn’t have many people offering to donate, but all the sudden everyone was calling back, excited to donate gift certificates or vouchers or products. I felt so supported by our community, and was so hopeful for the youth participating in the GYPS!
Emilee’s advice to girls: When I moved to Austin five years ago, I wanted to get involved somehow but didn’t know where to start. I didn’t have many friends yet, and the friends I did have weren’t volunteers. I searched for nonprofits on Facebook and found The Amala Foundation. They had a small, informal volunteer opportunity available. I signed up and showed up. Honestly, it was so awkward for me, socially. Everyone there already knew everyone else. But, I told myself to keep going. Now, some of the people I met there are my closest friends! So, keep going!