What Interning at GENaustin Has Taught Me: Insight from Fall 2014 Interns

This semester, GENaustin opened its doors to four ambitious, dedicated, and driven interns devoted to changing girls’ lives. With the year coming to an end, the interns have shared what the experience has taught them and why working with girl issues is pivotal for the development of young women.

 

Meet our fabulous interns below and read their inspiring insight!

Madison Weigand, Gracie Padilla, Karen Gaytan and Sidney Kenley (left to right)

Madison Weigand, Gracie Padilla, Karen Gaytan and Sidney Kenley (left to right)

Madison, a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, is currently studying Political Communication with an emphasis on Human Rights and Social Justice. This fall, she served as GENaustin’s Special Events intern. She thinks that books, singing loudly, dancing crazily, and an increasing number of women in politics are all pretty awesome.

 

What has inspired you to work with girls?

I want to work with girls because I see so much potential. Recently, society has done a better a job at recognizing the disparity between males and females. Now that this recognition has begun, girls need to seize every opportunity given to us in order to be whoever we want to be and do whatever we want to do.

 

If you had the opportunity to speak to your 13 year-old self, what would you say?

You do not need to wear Abercrombie & Fitch or straighten your hair to be cool. Know what you like, even if it’s different from what is popular. That’s cool. Spend time with people who make you happy about yourself. That’s cool. Those are the people that will be there for years to come. Your parents truly want what is best for you. Growing up can be difficult, but with friends and family by your side, the process does not have to be as complicated.

 

What does it mean to be a girl?

Being a girl means learning how to be a woman. Being both a girl and a woman means being whatever you want to be and being that at all times. Not bending to make others like you, but letting people like you for being you.

 

What has GENaustin taught you?

GEN taught me that girlhood doesn’t have to be the stereotype it is often made out to be. It can be a unique, complex, magical experience for every girl as they learn to be themselves rather than learning to be a pop star or a princess – unless of course, those are things they want to be!

Gracie, a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, will be completing her degree this December with a Bachelor of Social Work. She served as GENaustin’s Direct Service intern and was involved with the Diversity Committee. She loves puppies, politics and the color pink.

 

How do girls inspire you?

The girls I work with constantly inspire me to be myself, to laugh more, and to love the person that I am. The issues I am passionate about affect women who were once young girls. Interpersonal violence, sexual assault and harassment, sexism, body image, and reproductive rights disproportionately impact women. The unrealistic expectations girls face throughout girlhood inspired me to work at the root level of these issues. I feel that breaking stereotypes, having healthy friendships and relationships, and feeling empowered in your choices are necessary for girls to thrive.

 

What you tell your 13 year old self?

You are strong. You are lucky to have such a wonderful support system. You are a great listener and advice-giver in your group of friends. That said, try to take your own advice to heart a bit more. The things that matter now will not matter much in the long run. What you will accomplish in life will surprise you. Yes – you CAN be president.

 

What does it mean to be a girl?

Embracing who you are in every aspect. Defying the norms that try to dictate what you should be.

 

What has GENaustin taught you?

GEN has taught me that even though we encounter different experiences, we are all girls. If we band together and celebrate one another, our impact on the world will be that much greater. There are so many ways to feel and be empowered.

Karen, sophomore at St. Edward’s University, is currently studying Entrepreneurship and Communication. She served as GENaustin’s Communications Intern this past fall. She is a fan of concerts, silly jokes, and anything media related. She believes girls will soon take over world domination.

 

How do girls inspire you?

Empirical data shows that by the time they reach 6th grade, one third of girls will say they are confident. By the time they finish high school, however, girls will have suffered a disproportionate loss of confidence in their academic and social abilities.

I am inspired by girls’ creativity. I am inspired by girls’ spontaneity. I am inspired by girls’ enthusiasm. I am inspired by girls’ ambition. I am inspired by this alarming statistic because I believe in girl power and our potential, and I know that while numbers are not on our side, girls are forces to be reckoned with.

 

What would you tell your 13 year old self?

Be smart. Be loud. Be unapologetic. Having the highest grade in math class does make you a nerd, but whoever said that being a nerd is a bad thing? Own your intelligence. Keep feeding your untamed curiosity and keep asking all those questions. It will get you far. You will learn so much about yourself, just keep trusting your intuition.

Also, don’t get yourself into college debt.

 

What does it mean to be a girl?

Defining my own value, expecting the best of myself at all times and at all places, and finding my own worth independent of outside voices. Being crazy, loud, shy, confused, scared, fearless all at the same time. Understanding I have the power to dream and fight to make those dreams come true.

 

What has GENaustin taught you?

Through GEN, I have met inspiring women that teach me how to embrace my femininity and assertiveness. Even if we live in a world that tries to convince us otherwise, being a girl is not a disadvantage. GEN’s work is suuuuuuuuuuper important because it provides younger girls with a platform to see themselves as leaders, not as subordinates. We have to change the way we look at ourselves if we are going to change the equation of power, and GEN’s mission does a great work at tackling this.

Sidney Kenley graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor’s in Social Work. She served as a Special Events Intern this past fall. She loves music, playing video games, and could not live without tex-mex and queso.

 

What has inspired you to work with girls?

The pressures and issues involved with being a girl can be really scary. I became inspired to work with girls because I know I can relate. I have gone through girlhood and experienced girls’ issues. With women being over-sexualized in the media, girls are getting negative messages pressuring them to be a certain way and look like everyone else – as if there were a right way to look as a woman, and if you do not look this way then you should be ostracized. HOLD UP. NOT COOL! This has become extremely problematic and it can lead to girls having self-esteem issues, eating disorders and depression. I have been inspired to work with young girls because I saw a need for the empowerment in order for them to grow up healthy and happy. I hope that I can encourage girls to be themselves. To love and respect who they are, just the way they are.

 

What would you tell your 13 year old self?

“Do what you love. Don’t do something because everybody else is doing it. You DO NOT have to ear Abercrombie & Fitch just because everyone else is. Wear what you like, self!” I’d also explain to my newly teen body that everything that is happening to it is completely normal! I would tell myself to respect and be open to my parents. “Don’t be ashamed or scared to talk about your changing body, attitude towards boys, and strange new need to fit in. You’re a girl, and you’re okay.”

 

What does it mean to be a girl?

Being able to be and do anything. Girl as strong, beautiful, smart, and certainly anything at all!

 

What has GENaustin taught you?

GENaustin has taught me many new insights on girls’ issues and how to handle them. I’ve learned all kinds of techniques, activities, and methods to help girls navigate the unique pressures of girlhood, all while having fun. At GEN, I am reminded everyday that I am good enough just the way I am.


Vanessa Wright