Meet The Minds Behind Youth Empowerment Program “Girl Powerful”

Photography: Adele Thomas

With everything going on in the world today, it’s important we take a moment to stop and appreciate the positivity that people are spreading amidst the pandemic . The younger generations need something that will boost their mental health and put them on a path to success in their futures. Now, with an organization like Girl Powerful, it’s possible! Learning how to navigate societal expectations, manage emotions, and communicate with others is a big task to take on, and can sometimes be an internal struggle.

The motivational and inspiring women behind Girl Powerful, sisters Tedi & Sonya Serge,wanted to create a place where young woman could access the tools to build a strong sense of self. BELLA had the opportunity to hear their story and what their mission was behind Girl Powerful.

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Keep reading below to find out how you can get involved & how the Serge sisters began their journey…

Photography: Adele Thomas

Tell us about your background & how you Girl Powerful began.

We grew up best friends and never understood why our friends would fight with their siblings. We always knew we were all each other had. We leaned into our sisterhood at a very young age. We loved our female teachers, our girl friends, our mom and grandma. Our village was made up of strong women. So flash forward 20 years later and Girl Powerful was born with Tedi being an elementary school teacher and Sonya not feeling fulfilled in the music industry. We wrote our first curriculum based on what we needed when we were younger and backed by research in psychology and social and emotional learning (SEL). Our mission was to help girls feel seen and valued in order to learn, connect and build self-esteem. We created and still create the space for this to happen.

Currently, Girl Powerful after school enrichment classes meet on Zoom. We have girls logging on from 28 states. In Girl Powerful virtual classrooms girls learn self-love and self-care tools, intro to meditation, cooking, movement with the best celebrity trainers and a HUGE focus on Girl Powerful’s Guided Journal, that leads girls through writing prompts and thought provoking social situations. A girl can take our class to be guided through the journal with us or they can buy it and do it alone, with friends, or with a parent. Find it in the shop at www.girlpowerful.org.

How do you find balance in your everyday & work life? Any advice to inspire people on finding their own balance?

We are huge nature lovers. If we aren’t connected to nature, we aren’t connected to ourselves. Therefore we can’t connect with the girls. It is important for us to take care of ourselves first so we can take care of the girls and our community.  We connect with nature through hikes, long beach walks, looking up at the sky and saying, “thank you for my life and my heart beat.” We also practice yoga and meditation. This has been a big part of our journey and the more we practice the deeper and more meaningful Girl Powerful becomes. Balance can look different for everyone. When we feel too run down it really shows up in our relationships and appearance. Just like we teach the girls you need to fill your cup too! You cannot pour from an empty cup. We both love sharing, giving and teaching but we need to be mindful of when our gas tank light is on. When we start to feel low we don’t beat ourselves up about it, we just do what we need to do to fill back up. Which is nature, journaling, eating good food, laughing, reading, and just being present.

Photography: Adele Thomas

Can you share how you have transitioned to hosting online classes versus in-person workshops?

  Over the years we have worked with over 2,500 girls in our afterschool program. Our programs were 10 weeks long and we were seeing incredible results. We would get such powerful and sincere testimonials from parents, teachers, and the girls themselves.  Then in March 2020 when the world shut down we had to weigh what our options were to continue our purpose driven non-profit. Zoom was the clear answer and within a few days we were up and running classes. This was helpful to parents because they had no idea what to do with their girls while they were still expected to work. They also knew that if the girls saw us online, we offered their family a piece of normalcy in a new period of uncertainty and isolation.  For five months we have been hosting Girl Powerful classes, skincare workshops, and virtual camps where guest speakers teach the girls everything from oral hygiene to HIIT workouts. Peep our Instagram to see more @girlpowerfulproject.

We have also focused on fundraising for underserved girls to be able to participate in our virtual classes. We try to have 50% of our classes sponsored by brands, individuals, or family foundations. We know it is important to lift others up during such an intense and fearful time. All girls deserve access to mental health tools when they need it the most, during ages 8-14 especially during a global pandemic. We love Zoom because our energy is preserved and we can reach more girls this way. Zoom is the future for Girl Powerful. We will do incredible things virtually and when big in person opportunities show up we will be there for it!

What kinds of advice do you have for mothers, or tweens themselves, on staying positive during the process of going back to school in such an unprecedented time? 

The only advice right now is to take each day as it comes. Feel all the feelings and move through them with a cry, a share, a journal session, a workout, or time outside. Feeling the uncomfortable moments that 2020 has presented is the only way through this time. There are no shortcuts. In June 2020, we published a card deck to help girls and their families maneuver the new normal of being distant but trying to stay connected to each other and ourselves. The card deck is for families to do together to help build the whole family’s self-esteem and focus on mental health tips. There are 64 prompts of actions, writing prompts, affirmations and more. Check out the shop to support. www.girlpowerful.org

Photography: Adele Thomas

With new merchandise and a podcast is in the making, how is the process going and what types of things do we have to look forward to hearing about?

Although we are a registered 501(c)3 we are still a business. We have to put in the work in order to see results. As we build we want to grow our offerings and also lean into our creative side. We are both very creative and powerful women. We want to showcase that to the world so girls can see that you truly can design your life and your career. We are living proof.

The podcast will be about us and our journeys through self-love, growth, building a brand and sisterhood. We will have special guests along the way if they have helped Girl Powerful throughout the years. Everything we say or do is for educating, empowering and entertaining Gen Z.  Check out our TikTok to see our personality and grab some quick tips! We are verified TikTok creators and we make content that we know a parent can trust their daughter to watch and interact with @girlpowerfulproject. The merch is fun and playful and the girls were begging for it. The more money we make the more girls we can help and sponsor in our programs. We also love seeing girls wearing our crewnecks and hats. We get a warm fuzzy feeling. That’s what life is all about! Feelings.

At BELLA our tagline is “Life is Beautiful,” where do you find beauty?

Tedi: Life is Beautiful. I am very glad you are promoting that concept. This year I have leaned into gratitude. It has shifted my perspective. Each day I look at it as a gift and an opportunity to be myself. To connect with my mind, body and soul so I can serve Gen Z and be a role model for girls and also my peers. I make mistakes. I am a human. I think within those mistakes the lessons appear and we learn to maneuver through life with grace and grit. It’s beautiful to find purpose and connection in each day,even if the purpose of the day is to relax…then allow yourself to truly relax.

From what I can understand in 2020 the grind hard, boss babe, hustle mentality is dead. We need to really lean into the teachings of Girl Powerful and connect with the power within you. That is what Girl Powerful means. When you are connected to your inner power you can work hard and accomplish what you want in this world.

Sonya: Every year I become more confident and take better care of myself. I remember as a young girl hearing celebrities like Eva Longoria and Cameron Diaz say that your thirties are your best years because you live for yourself and your own happiness. All of the petty and materialistic things, the body shaming, the self-loathing melts away if you make the decision to practice self-love. I believe that life gets more and more beautiful every single day if you choose to honor what your heart desires. The most beautiful thing I witness is young girls enrolled in Girl Powerful speaking to themselves with kind words, honoring their strengths and standing up for one another. They are the humans who are going to change the world’s view on women, just by believing in themselves.

Photography: Adele Thomas

Lastly, where can everyone follow you and stay up-to-date on new online classes?

The best place to follow us is Instagram and TikTok @girlpowerfulproject.  In our IG bio we have a link to our latest offering. For more info and merch,  visit  www.girlpowerful.org. DM us or send us an email  to connect.

tedi@sandsistersla.org | sonya@sandsistersla.org 

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | TikTok

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