Meet Renay, a Girls Inc. peer educator with Girls Inc. of Lynn, who reflects on how she grew into her own leadership potential during her time at Girls Inc., mentoring and supporting fellow girls.
When I reflect on my time as a Girls Inc. Peer Educator in Lynn, Massachusetts, it amazes me how ahead of its time the curriculum was. My fellow peer educators and I conducted workshops for middle school girls on various issues, including substance abuse, homophobia, racism, and domestic abuse. While these matters have only recently gained the public attention they deserve, educating and supporting young women facing these challenges has always been the mission of Girls Inc.
Leadership in Action
The girls I presented to, a diverse group of young women from different economic and social backgrounds, overcame any biases they may have had as they shared their personal experiences in a safe space. However, they were not the only ones who benefitted from our peer educator presentations. We received feedback on our public speaking skills (“Speak louder, Renay, and not too quickly!”) that helped me grow in confidence. As a shy and reserved teen, I had never seen myself as a leader until I stood in front of a room of young women, providing them information and answering questions. When the girls I mentored turned to me for help with homework or for advice on problems at home, my confidence only continued to grow. It also taught me the importance of supporting other women.
Alongside the girls we mentored, peer educators like myself attended career workshops that exposed us to different professions. One of these sessions was led by a female attorney. She emphasized how much she enjoyed practicing law, which combined her love of working with people with her writing skills. “You enjoy helping people and are good at writing. Maybe you should consider becoming an attorney,” my supervisor commented afterwards. Previously, I hadn’t considered the law as a career. That workshop gave me insight into the legal profession, and it planted the idea of law school in my head.
I was fortunate to be selected as a Girls. Inc National Scholar, and went on to attend Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and the University of Miami School of Law in Miami, FL. Currently, I work as Staff Counsel for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the Massachusetts state agency responsible for the assignment of public defenders to the indigent in criminal and certain civil matters, including mental health and child welfare cases. Girls Inc. is where I first gained exposure to many of the issues that CPCS clients confront on a daily basis. I am grateful to work for an agency that is on the front lines, advocating for our most vulnerable.