Welcome and thanks to Ashley, an alumna of Girls Inc. of the Greater Capital Region, for sharing her updates and special memories of achievement and growth at Girls Inc.
What brought you to Girls Inc. in the first place and why did you decide to come back to help your local Girls Inc. as an adult?
My mom and dad wanted my sisters and I to do something positive that emphasized achievement after school. My mother also was employed at my local Girls Inc. for a few years, so it allowed her to keep an eye on my sisters and I, so to speak.
I came back to show my support and mentor girls because I always believed in the mission of Girls Inc. I believe that all girls need positive role models regardless what their home lives may look like.
Can you tell me about how you were supported and encouraged to grow in leadership at Girls Inc.?
I loved that it was okay to be tall, Black, well-spoken, and unique. Growing up, we had the opportunity to meet professional athletes, health care professionals as well as politicians, and most of them were women. Girls Inc. helped to close the achievement gap for me. Because of positive representation inside (and outside) the center, I knew one day that I would be a leader.
I tried different activities like Tae Kwon Do and woodworking, and discovered how capable I was. In woodworking class, I helped to make a picnic table and even a lamp. I liked that I could hammer nails in straight, and use power tools. The class made me feel powerful.
What did you learn and how did the Girls Inc. Experience help you?
I learned to be strong, smart, and bold. One of the most valuable skills I learned was leadership. Girls Inc. taught me that I was unique and that I could be confident just the way I am, and girls could do what boys could do. In addition, I learned that being Black was beautiful.
My parents always taught my sisters and I that being Black was beautiful, but this was reinforced at Girls Inc. There were diverse staff, which is important to a young girl of color. I got the opportunity to learn about strong, smart, and bold Black women who did everything from play sports to write poems. I was made to feel special at a time in my life when I did not always feel that way. Girls Inc. did a good job of being inclusive and emphasizing positive self-image in us. I felt all girls had a chance to partake in the opportunities that the organization offered.
What is your favorite Girls Inc. memory?
I loved taking Tae Kwon Do. It was beautiful to learn words in Korean, and also how to defend myself. I loved the sparring and the board breaking. I had the opportunity to go to tournaments and loved it so much I practiced outside of Girls Inc. Looking back, I wish I would have continued on and received my black belt, but I took up basketball instead. I did however gain the expertise needed to lead classes of my own, teaching girls. Most recently, I helped my niece discover Tae Kwon Do too.
What advice would you give to girls knowing what you know now?
My advice for girls is to be confident, be different, stand up for yourself, and others. Self-love is the best love.
What would you like to tell the supporters of Girls Inc.?
Girls Inc. helps to empower a new generation of leaders who can make great achievements and do anything that they put their minds to.
Are there any updates you’d like to share?
For the last six years, I have been a full-time history teacher in the public school system, teaching middle school students. I have also recently become a published author! My first children’s book, Nyasia’s Bee-utiful Discovery, is available in English and Spanish.