This summer, I participated in a program through Girls With Impact, an organization that provides high school girls with the practical skills and knowledge they need to develop and launch a business or nonprofit. Girls With Impact was brought to my attention when Hewitt Coordinator of Experiential Learning Stephanie Dore suggested it to the upper school community. Since I was interested in creating a nonprofit, I decided to go through the application and selection process, which consisted of recording a short video of myself talking about why I wanted to join the summer course. Girls With Impact gave me the opportunity to learn real business skills that are typically taught at the college level or learned the hard way, in real life. During the program, each participant focused on an impact project that they wanted to develop from the ground up. I came to the program with a vision for a nonprofit that I had been thinking about for a while, and Girls With Impact gave me the opportunity to bring it to life.
The summer program involved meeting twice a week for six weeks, and classes were held online which meant that we could participate regardless of where we lived. In addition to our weekly classes, we received regular coaching from professionals experienced in developing or running businesses. During each phase of the program, we learned how to move our visions forward, making frequent changes as we experimented with and fine-tuned our business plans and tried new approaches based on the feedback we received from our peers and coaches. At the end of the six weeks, we showcased our final projects in a special graduation ceremony attended by our families, friends, the Girls With Impact staff, and various business representatives. These presentations gave us experience talking about our impact projects in a business setting, just as we might if we were pitching for start-up capital in the real world.
Through Girls With Impact, I developed my non-profit, Rise. Our mission is to support those with learning differences by teaching about and breaking misconceptions surrounding learning disabilities. The topic of overcoming a learning disability hits close to my heart as I have dyslexia and had to work as a child to overcome certain challenges. The National Center for Learning Disabilities states that one in five children have learning differences, and at least one fifth of these go undiagnosed or unsupported. All too often these kids do not receive the support they need. These children can go through life thinking they are stupid when in actuality they are smart and vibrant children who learn differently.
Students with learning differences are often faced with hurtful misconceptions about themselves that come from a lack of knowledge and understanding of what it is like to have a learning disability. It upsets me to think of kids hearing unkind and untrue comments about themselves, and so my goal during Girls With Impact was to develop a website that corrects some of the negative and damaging misconceptions people have about learning differences by educating them about what it means to have a learning disability. After working with my Girls With Impact coaches this summer to identify my audience and develop my goals and long-term plans for Rise, I have started designing a website where visitors will be able to find information about several different learning disorders including dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. In the future, I plan on creating a support network that helps students with learning disabilities connect with one another through Rise, and I also plan to develop a blog where people can share their personal stories and helpful information. I will include sound clips of the written content to make everything on the website accessible to all visitors, especially those with reading difficulties.
True to its name, Girls With Impact was a deeply impactful experience for me. I learned while creating, and I was given guidance every step of the way. The support I gained will be ongoing, as Girls With Impact offers a graduate program where program participants can access an online network of resources and receive feedback from their coaches and other Girls With Impact alumnae. The organization will continue to support me moving forward by connecting me with business contacts who might be helpful to me in college and beyond. Every girl who participated in the Girls With Impact summer program was able to realize her dream - whether it was developing a non-profit like mine or building a community-based business. The tools I learned will last a lifetime, but more than that, the experience helped me realize that I can create anything if I put my mind to it - because I am doing it now.