Girls Inc. is thrilled to highlight Callie Cunningham, and alumna of Girls Inc. of Bristol. Callie after graduating university, began her career as a part-time program instructor at Girls Inc. of Bristol. In 2015, she transitioned to the Director of Outreach, and as of 2022, now works as the Director of Fund Development. Callie shares her favorite memories at Girls Inc. and explains why having a supportive community, like the one she found at Girls Inc., is important for girls.
What is your favorite Girls Inc. memory?
One of my favorite experiences as a Girls Inc. participant was when we participated in “Take Your Daughter To Work Day,” where we would spend a day at a local business learning the ins and outs of their day. I always looked forward to those days. I also remember spending hours in our COO’s office while she walked me through each step of my Chemistry homework and that is the sole reason I passed that class and received my high school diploma. As I transitioned into the Director of Fund Development position, I requested that when I transitioned I would still be allowed to continue teaching Healthy Sexuality programming, a program that I taught as a program instructor. Each year I go into our local school system and teach Healthy Sexuality programming. It is without a doubt my most favorite part of this job. Every year a girl will come up to me and just thank me for being there and teaching them. It’s the best thing in the world.
Can you provide insights on the benefits of participating in pro-girl spaces/communities?
I started at Girls Inc. very shy and timid. Girls Inc. definitely brought me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to explore new ideas, activities, and discover my true potential. Because of the wonderful staff, who are now some of my closest friends, I have found my voice and know I am exactly where I have been called to be. As for pro-girl spaces, I am an absolute advocate for everything we do. Growing up and automatically feeling lesser or smaller just because of your gender is so disheartening. It’s something a lot of people are not equipped to move beyond, so they remain locked in gender stereotypes. I love knowing that as soon as our girls step into our facility they know they are loved and that they are going to be treated just like everyone else. We have no gender bias, there is no discrimination; we are all equal. They are just as strong, just as smart, and just as bold. Being able to instill that confidence and that way of thinking into them without a doubt benefits them when they return to a multi-gender environment.
What would you like to tell the supporters of Girls Inc.?
I tell our supporters my personal Girls Inc. story and the difference the organization made in my life, and how my story is not a one-time occurrence. Because Girls Inc. believed in me from the very beginning, nearly 23 years ago, I have the confidence to do things I never thought possible. I speak to rooms of strangers on our behalf. I have spoken on television and in front of government officials, all because Girls Inc. staff know I can do it. The Girls Inc. family knows I have what it takes, even when I still question myself. I owe them so much more than a “thanks for the job.” They continue to pour so much life into me, and the best part is I know I’m not the only one. I know I am one out of hundreds. So lives are being changed within our walls every single day, and it’s because our supporters believe in our mission that we are able to reach so many girls across our region.