Who wants to go back to Middle School?
I’ve never met a single person who would voluntarily go back to the most awkward, transformational time of our lives…Especially me.
Maybe for me it was because my family moved to a small town in Texas from Virginia in the 7th grade…And because I had braces…And because I didn’t participate in traditional sports and rode horses… And I was really quiet – You might even go so far as to say I was painfully shy. I thought I would leave middle school and never look back.
Fast forward to 2010, and I had just moved to Atlanta. I didn’t know anyone, and I found myself scouring the internet for volunteer opportunities in an attempt to meet people. Through a Google search I found a program called the Boys and Girls Club that had opportunities to volunteer with kids of all ages. I found one near my house and decided to stop by.
Next thing I knew, I had spent a year and a half volunteering with middle school girls and loving every minute of it. It’s definitely much better the second time around!
I noticed something. When I was around these girls, I felt like I could give them a line of sight into the future…and let them know that life isn’t so awful after all, and things shake out in ways you can’t imagine when you’re at that age.
So in 2013, I started a program now known as “Ab Fab Girls” – ‘Ab Fab’ standing for “Absolutely Fabulous” – because there wasn’t a mentorship program for middle schoolers at the Club.
My dream for this program is to empower these girls with a voice.
I saw this as my chance to tackle one of the most critical and impactful times in a girl’s life with a program that helps them build their own brand, realize their value, and open their minds to the limitless possibilities, if only they simply believe in themselves.
I created a program that categorized the list of topics into three pillars:
Ab Fab is built on the premise of identifying speakers and content that supplements these three pillars. We have had amazing partnerships thus far that have included Lulu Lemon facilitating a yoga session, Stella & Dot hosting a styling session, and Arbonne facilitating a facial cleansing routine. All of these sessions were created through connections and relationships I had made over the years.
These speakers helped me realize how powerful just asking could be. And I started to see the world so that every woman I encountered might have something to inspire a middle school girl. I learned to expect the unexpected with random connectedness, as a mentor once told me.
My connections began to cross continents. I was virtually introduced to an amazing young woman in Pakistan named Asra. She is a colleague of mine through Coca-Cola and has become a good friend over the past couple of years. We decided to create a similar pen-pal/friendship opportunity that we had experienced for our girls!
We had 6 Pakistan girls writing to girls in Ab Fab. I was grateful for the support and exposure for these girls, and I began recognizing the amazing opportunities that opened their eyes when they were exposed to the larger world.
Everyone can play a role in empowering young girls with the confidence they need to thrive in today’s world. We each have enormous resources at our disposal. My challenge to you is to look at your own network and consider using your connections to make a difference in someone’s life.
The life you set out to change just might be your own in the process.
I walked into a Boys & Girls Club to meet people in Atlanta. I walked out with a vision and a mission to change the world.
I am a Bene Boss because I want to leave the world a better place by investing in the next generation of young girls.