Girls Are Powerful participation gives her tools and confidence.

Amanda St. Martin’s daughter Ellie has a positive personality. “She’s full of energy and she’s always excited to experience new things and people,” says Amanda. But when Ellie started first grade, she encountered difficulties. “A group of girls started being mean to me,” explains Ellie. “They called me names and left me out when they played games.”

During that same period, Ellie’s parents were divorcing. “Ellie was going through some big changes all at once,” says Amanda. “She was feeling sad and confused and going through a lot of difficult emotions.” When she noticed Ellie’s spirits dimming, Amanda went searching for something to help brighten her up again.

Amanda recalled meeting Girls Are Powerful founder Shawntan Howell at a women’s expo a few years earlier. “Her message resonated with me,” says Amanda. “I remembered the phrase ‘girls are powerful’ and went searching for it online.” Amanda located the website and luckily there was an event coming up soon, so she registered Ellie. As it turned out, there was a Parent Circle happening at the same time, so Amanda was able to participate, too.

When Amanda and Ellie were driving to the event, they didn’t know what to expect. They made a deal with each other: “We agreed, we’ll give it a try and if it’s a horrible experience, we’ll leave.” Ellie was the youngest in the group and was a little timid about separating from Amanda and joining the girls. “She was quiet at first, but that all changed by the time we came together again,” says Amanda.

“I liked it,” says Ellie. “It was a lot of fun. And I still have the poster in my room.” The hands-on activity was to trace onto poster board the large capital letter that starts your name, and to decorate the poster using various Girls Are Powerful power words – the key motivational words that serve as the organization’s mission and consistently inspire all participants: beautiful, unique, smart, confident, determined and powerful.

Ellie says that first event was one of her favorites. “It was the time when I got my first Girls Are Powerful T-shirt, and I think they’re really cool,” says Ellie. “They have a bunch of power words on them and I really like them. I have two or three.”

Parent Circles also help

Amanda has also participated in several Parent Circles, held simultaneously in different rooms when the girls’ activities are going on. Each Parent Circle features a guest speaker along with time for questions and discussion. “The speakers have great information and offer pointers for parents to discuss with their kids.” Topics have included health and wellness, nutrition, life coaching and financial planning, among others. “We always have discussions related to our daughters, and some of those have been my favorite part,” says Amanda. “It’s an opportunity to ask advice from parents whose daughters have gone through similar situations. It’s people from all walks of life, and it’s been very interesting.”

The difference is noticeable

Amanda has noticed the Girls Are Powerful difference in Ellie. “It’s given her tools and a common language she can use,” says Amanda. “She has confidence in her own strength and she believes in herself. She always had it within her, but I feel Girls Are Powerful brings it out even more.”

Ellie notices, too. “It’s not nice for people to be mean to you or push you around or tell you what to do,” she says. “I’ve learned to stand up for myself when someone’s being mean. I say, ‘I don’t want you to do that,’ or I’ll walk away.”

Amanda is also impressed with Ellie. “Something inside her gives her strength to walk into situations that even adults can find challenging.” They both enjoy participating in Girls Are Powerful events every year. “Even though she’s only eight years old, Ellie always feels welcomed and wants to go back,” says Amanda.” That speaks volumes to me.”

The common language they’ve learned has also helped strengthen interactions at home. “Whenever we’re in a difficult situation and it’s just the two of us, Ellie will look at me and say, ‘Girls Are Powerful! We can do this!’ She helps other people, including her mom,” Amanda chuckled. And during a recent conversation a friend asked, “Tell me something good about Ellie.” To which Ellie piped up: “I’m awesome!”