Empowering Girls To Make History
This Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating organizations founded by TFA alumni that are working to encourage the next generation of girls.
March 14, 2018
From monthly subscription boxes to 100-mile walks, Teach For America alumni are demonstrating to girls that they can achieve great things.
An impressive number of female TFA alumni have created nonprofits and companies that aim to empower young women across the country in a variety of ways. We take a closer look at four of these organizations this Women’s History Month.
T. Morgan Dixon (Metro Atlanta ’00) was a high school teacher in Atlanta when she learned that half of all black girls born in America after 2000 would be diagnosed with Type II diabetes. “I couldn't teach anymore,” she explained at a TED Talk back in April, “So I started taking the girls hiking, which is why we're called GirlTrek.”
Morgan and Vanessa Garrison founded GirlTrek in 2010 with the mission to reduce leading causes of preventable death among Black women and build communities. Today, GirlTrek is the largest public health organization for Black women and girls in the U.S.
Recently, to honor Harriet Tubman and Women’s History Month, GirlTrek’s national team walked the five-day, 100-mile trek along the Underground Railroad route where Tubman made her great escape. The walk started at Maryland’s Eastern Shore on March 6, and the women walked 20 miles, sometimes more, per day. They ended their trip by crossing the Mason–Dixon Line into Delaware on March 10, Tubman’s birthday.
Using the hashtags #WeAreHarriet and #HarrietsGreatEscape, the 10 women documented the journey, encouraging others to join. Some of the 125,000 GirlTrek members even made the trip to the Mason-Dixon Line to cheer them on.
“We will prove that 2018 is about radical courage and unshakeable sisterhood,” Morgan said in a statement. “Harriet Tubman saved her own life first and then went back … to save the lives of others, giving us the blueprint for the work GirlTrek does today.”
Learn more about GirlTrek’s unprecedented journey and bold mission to reach one million Black women by 2020.
GIRLS CAN! CRATE
Within the aisles of princess gear and dolls that emphasize personal appearances, Megan Goodman (Colorado ’07) says she struggled to find inspirational, empowering toys for her young daughter. She co-founded GIRLS CAN! CRATE in 2015 to address this need and encourage girls to make the world a better place.
Through subscription boxes, GIRLS CAN! CRATE has made influential women from history, like Marie Curie and Frida Kahlo, and inspiring modern women, like Ava DuVernay and Malala Yousafzai, more accessible for girls. Every month, the boxes reinforce the central idea that all girls can be and do anything.
In the past two and a half years, the company has grown to hundreds of subscribers and has received well-deserved national recognition. To further its mission, the company donates 10% of proceeds to local nonprofits that help girls reach their full potential.
Before GIRLS CAN! CRATE, Megan worked for the nonprofit Sold No More to help combat sex trafficking in southern Arizona. She got her start in the corps after graduating from Azusa Pacific University, teaching middle school in Colorado.
Read more about Megan in Girls Can! How the Arts, STEM Education Empower Young Women.
Building Our Nation’s Daughters
Growing up as a daughter of a single mother, Ateira Griffin (Baltimore ’11) is familiar with a common false narrative about single mother households. “We’re often told that we’re not whole—that we cannot be a full person because dad is not around. And it’s absolutely not true,” she said.
Ateira is the founder and CEO of Building Our Nation’s Daughters (BOND), a Baltimore-based nonprofit that works to strengthen single mother families through mother-to-mother mentoring, mother-daughter programming, and advocating for every single mother household to have equitable access to opportunities. BOND gives single mothers the opportunity to carve out time with their daughters and connect through activities and workshops focused on building identity and strengthening bonds. Members can meet monthly or quarterly and have access to professional counseling, peer support and connection to community resources.
The impact of BOND is revealed through stories that mothers and daughters share about using the positive communication techniques they’ve learned in the program, at home, at work, and in their neighborhoods.
In a recent interview with the Baltimore Sun, Ateira discusses the multiplier effect she’s seeing as women from the BOND program are spreading wholeness and healing across their communities. “Families are the crux of our communities. If we can heal families, we can heal communities, and we can heal our city. That’s the goal.”
Women Empowering Nations
This summer, a group of girls will travel from New York to Ghana, where, in addition to touring, they will participate in the Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Conference, a gathering of teenagers from the United States and Ghana. It’s just one program offered by the nonprofit Women Empowering Nations (WEN), founded by Carlisha Williams (Greater Tulsa ’11). The group aims to grow Black women leaders through mentorship and travel opportunities like the conference.
WEN also has partnered with schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Houston to create the Girls Leading Our World Program, which provides leadership and self-esteem development resources to middle school girls of color. The group also runs an annual GLOW Leadership Summit, which has been held in various cities in the U.S. and Africa.
In addition to running WEN, Carlisha works as executive director of the Tulsa Legacy Charter School. She travels to Gambia often to run literacy and empowerment programs for girls, and GLOW travel seminars, which often include her own students, have taken participants to Senegal, Gambia, Tanzania, and Morocco. “We work to contribute to a society where women leaders of color will no longer be viewed as the exception to the rule but as relevant assets and necessary additions to organizations globally,” according to WEN’s vision statement.
Read Carlisha’s reflections on the founding of Women Empowering Nations and its impact.