By K. Levek
Girls Inc. is an non-profit organization that focuses on training young girls aged 6-18 annually across the United States and Canada. The Washington, DC Metro Area chapter recently held its annual awards gala where it celebrated women who have made achievement in the science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M.) and other professional sectors of their careers.
This year the auction and gala was themed, “Power of the Purse,” which featured a purse runway show and live auction while honoring women leaders who embody the spirit of the Girls Inc. mission – to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold! This year’s honorees included: Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL); Edie Fraser, CEO, STEMconnector; Sonya Gavankar, Host/Moderator, Newseum; Laurel Kamen, Founder, Alloro; Camelia Mazard, Partner, Doyle, Barlow & Mazard PLLC; and Gloria Parker, CEO and Senior Partner of Parker Group Consulting.
The gala event hosted a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres and various women from around the metropolitan region also featured a live auction of purses that were donated by designers Hobo, Wheeler Love, Alloro, Christopher Kon, Mary Frances and Laura Lee. The auction helped raise nearly five thousand dollars as people bid on the designer bags.
The local chapter, which focuses on reaching girls aged 6-18, has an office on the campus of Howard University, located in one of the most populated freshman female dormitories, The Quad. Five girls from the local chapter attended the event to help introduce the honorees and present them with gifts. They were Lia Mattews, a 6th grader, Olivia Bartholomew, a 9th grader, Afia Tyus, a 10th grader, Tatyana Curry an 8th grader and Jana Washington a 9th grader.
Each of the girls have been in the program for quite some time and lamented on their experience so far. Afia, who began the program in the 6th grade said she really enjoys the programming that the organization offers. Jana said, “ the program has really helped me open up because I’m not typically a people’s person.” Others said they enjoy the entrepreneurship program, but the favorite was the summer program because of the various life skills offered during that time.
Kimberly Stokes and Courtney Woods are both After School Coordinators with the organization. They both initially got involved as volunteers while attending Howard and transitioned into the organization as full-time employees. They work with the girls from the Howard middle school, which is housed on the campus. Courtney said she enjoys the position with Girls, Inc. because she loves “fellowshipping with the girls and relationship building. It’s like a home environment when I step into work.”
Through the program Courtney and Kimberly are able to teach the girls about sisterhood, investing, discovering themselves all while actively mentoring the young girls. On top of the social things they incorporate, college preparatory is another major component. Kimberly said, “all the mentors come from Howard, so we are able to give them a college-focused environment.”
Dr. Roselyn Payne Epps is the founder of the DC Chapter of Girls, Inc. She said, “we need it [the local chapter]. Our girls should have advantage of this type of opportunity. College campuses are isolated and we need resources to help children.” Dr. Epps, who served as the 1990 national president, has been instrumental in the D.C. chapter’s success. Executive Director of the chapter, Denise Lombardi, said, “This is my favorite event of the year and this is our chapter’s time to honor the women who’ve made amazing strides in their careers.”
Honoree Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she was excited about her nomination from the organization because it focuses on “weaving the binds of sisterhood so tightly.” She encouraged the young girls who attended to continue being stewards of education.
Other honoree Gloria Parker said she was excited when she received the call from Girls, Inc. “I just love the work they do and it is truly a privilege to be honored by them,” she said. Parker owns her own consulting firm, Parker Group Consulting, where the focus is on advising major companies and small businesses on government and business strategies. She also had words of wisdom to pass on to the young women. She said, “you can do whatever you want when you decide you are the master of your passion. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can’t do.”
Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through life-changing programs and experiences that help girls navigate gender, economic, and social barriers. Research-based curricula, delivered by trained, mentoring professionals in a positive all-girl environment equip girls to achieve academically; lead healthy and physically active lives; manage money; navigate media messages; and discover an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. The network of local Girls Inc. non-profit organizations serves 136,000 girls ages 6 – 18 annually across the United States and Canada.
Girls Inc. of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area is a non-profit organization incorporated in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and is an affiliate of the national non-profit, Girls Incorporated, which has been serving girls since 1865. The network of local Girls Inc. organizations serves 136,000 girls annually at over 90 sites across the United States and Canada. Learn more about our local affiliate at www.girlsincdc.org and our national programs and advocacy at www.girlsinc.org.