Girls Inc. has molded me into the person that I have become today. I began my journey with Girls Inc. in the summer shortly after turning five years old and attended the summer program up until I was fourteen and the afterschool program from five to twelve. At the age of eleven, I joined the enCourage program, which enabled me to truly test my limits by ascending vast mountains, and even climbing real rock faces! The enCourage program not only provided me with the strength to take safe risks, I was also given the tools to maintain healthy relationships with my peers. Since aging out of the enCourage program, I have also participated in some of Girls Inc. of Santa Fe’s advocacy initiatives, like hosting a congressional candidate forum and testifying in the state legislature.
After my time had ended as a participant in the programs, I decided I needed to give back to the Girls Inc. community. In the summer of 2022, I became a Summer Camp Facilitator. I worked with youth eight to nine years old, where I was responsible for the physical and emotional safety of the participants, as well as implementing hands-on and experiential programs. As a child in Girls Inc. programs, I took for granted all of the love and support that I had been given, and from my new perspective as a facilitator, I was truly able to see how much planning, thought, and care is intertwined into the simplest activities. For example, as a kid I always enjoyed being asked questions at the end of an activity, about my experience and how I would relate what I learned to my life in the outside world. Now I understand that this was part of the experiential learning cycle and I see how those questions solidify what the girls have learned and encourage them to keep exploring. When summer came to an end, and my senior year was around the corner, I was offered a position as a Program Assistant, which I gladly accepted. I have grown up as a Girls Inc. girl, however, I feel as though this past year as a staff member has given me even more opportunities and personal growth.
My mental health has always been a struggle for me, as well as finding friends. These past few years of high school I have felt a lot of self hatred. Whether it be my curly hair or broad shoulders, I just never seemed to find something I liked about myself. Growing up in a society where looks are the most important thing, I struggled with mental breakdowns where I would rip out my hair and scream in the mirror about how ugly I felt, which unfortunately made me pass up many opportunities. My time working at Girls Inc. has made me realize that looks are not a priority in any shape or form. I have found that I can truly love myself without turning to males for validation or putting my whole worth into how my body looks. I find that when I come to Girls Inc. I feel loved and appreciated, without fear or judgment. Though I have experienced secondhand violence and bullying in school, at Girls Inc. I am welcomed into such a kind space where I can truly be accepted and understand my real worth.
The past few years before taking the job at Girls Inc. of Santa Fe, I think I was sometimes selfish and close minded. My time at Girls Inc. has helped me consider the impact my actions have on others and taught me to care for others in a way I had not before. I am lucky to be able to step into a warm space with laughing girls and kind faces. Some of the facilitators are women I have known for years now and they have become people I can confide in and rely on. I can see that Girls Inc. has made a huge impact not only in my life but in the lives of many young girls around the state. It is a special place that is like no other and I truly believe that from what I’ve learned here, I can take my strengths into the world and make a difference.