My name is Yadira. I am seventeen years old and I have been going to Girls Inc. three or four times a week since I was twelve years old.
I come from a single-parent home.
My dad left when I was eleven years old. It was a stressful time in my life, losing my father figure. My mother also lost another income earner. I remember when my dad first left, my mom did not have time to fill out the free lunch forms yet and she did not have money to give me for lunch. During those stressful, confusing times, I just went without food.
I live with my mom now. So does my older sister, her husband, and their three children. So do two of my other sisters and their children. A total of five adults and nine children live in my house. Two of my sisters were teen moms. I see how hard it is for them and how it has also created hardships for me and my mother. I end up babysitting a lot, sometimes when I want to go out or live my own life. My mother has had two heart surgeries and has a bad back. Even when she is home, she needs me to help with the kids. I am usually the one to cook for them, give them a bath, and put them to bed when my sisters are at work. Sometimes I want to go out with my friends, but I can’t because I have to watch them. Although my grades are good, I know if I lived in a different situation I would be able to focus on my studies more. There are times when I don’t turn in homework. I have to clean, help cook, and there are just too many distractions in my house. In addition to school, home, and Girls Inc., I also have a part time job to pay for my phone, my clothes and to help with household bills.
Despite the challenges in my home life, my family loves and supports me and so does Girls Inc. Because of my experiences at Girls Inc., I have become a much more confident young woman with a vision of a bigger world than the world in my house.
Through Girls Inc., I flew in an airplane for the first time with a flying program offered by the Nebraska Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen. The plane was a small, private plane. It was scary! I remember thinking, “What if this thing just drops from the sky?” I had so much adrenaline surging through my body. On the way back to the airport, I could start to relax and think, “This is alright!” After the flight, I realized I would do it again!
When I went to New York City with the Girls Inc. Corporate Camp program a year after that flight, I had the chance to fly again in a commercial flight. Although I was still scared (after all, this was a much bigger plane!) I did finally relax in the company of my friends and Girls Inc. staff. Once in New York City, I learned to become a more confident public speaker. I learned that I liked the “big city” and created a goal for myself to travel after college and to maybe even move to a bigger city. Corporate Camp helped me learn how to work with a team and to have confidence in my ideas.
Through Girls Inc., I have met amazing women role models like Michelle Obama, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, and Condoleezza Rice. While I am still naturally a bit nervous when I meet them (I mean, what if I trip?!), Girls Inc. has helped me meet these women with confidence and poise, and to accept their words of encouragement and inspiration.
Girls Inc. has taken me to gala dinners with fancy food that I did not eat every day. This built my confidence in my etiquette and social skills. At first I was nervous. I saw a salad and thought, “Is this all we get to eat?” And I wondered which fork to use and worried about messing up. With Girls Inc. to guide me, I realized I could watch others and see what they were doing. Now I can help new girls when they say, “How do I eat this?” I can tell them, “Pick up this one and this one and you eat it like this!”
With Girls Inc., I have walked the streets of New York City and navigated the subways beneath the streets. I have walked the runway during Omaha’s Fashion Week. I have walked in the Cinco de Mayo Parade. I have walked into theaters and museums and walked onto college campuses. This May, with Girls Inc.’s support, I will walk across the stage and accept my high school diploma. Because they have helped me think confidently about my future, I can also envision the day when I walk across a stage to receive my college diploma and walk into a bright future as a strong, independent young woman.
Through Girls Inc., I was able to participate in Broken Mirror, a play by and for teen girls. I did the play once a year in 8th, 9th, and 10th grades. This interactive experience really gave me the chance to speak up, to create poems and dramatic skits. Working with the other girls made me feel like I was a part of something, not an outsider or an outcast. I got to know the girls and to be a part of the inside jokes. We had a common goal and we worked together. We talked about the kind of skits we wanted in the play or how to deliver a monologue. Sometimes we just talked about random stuff; we were just friends. After the talking, we had to get down to business to get the play put together. We worked together and we knew what we had to accomplish.
When I submitted a poem for the script, at first I wanted it to be anonymous. I did not want my name in the program next to the title of the poem, a piece about my relationship with my mother. In my poem, I wrote that although my mom and I fought a lot, I still loved her very much. My mom has a lot of stress and she can snap at me. And I am a teen girl and I can snap, too, but despite the fact that most of our interactions are stressful and loud, I still love her. Before the performance, I decided I didn’t want the poem to be anonymous. I wanted my mom to know “this is how I feel” and I wanted other people to know, too. After she saw the performance, she said to me, “Nunca me decias que te sentias asi.” “You never told me you felt that way.” I told her, “I didn’t know how to tell you.”
At first I was nervous in Broken Mirror. I felt that the other girls’ poems were powerful and so alive, better than mine. I felt that mine was weak and I didn’t know how to write. Once I started performing it, however, I felt that a weight was lifted off of me. I knew the meaning behind the poem and that made it come alive for to me; I felt proud.
Through this interactive experience, I came to believe that girls should have the opportunity to share with other girls. There will be someone in the group who has been through the same things you have been through. Writing, talking, and sharing our stories was a powerful way to learn, much more powerful than reading a lesson out of a book.
When I participated in Corporate Camp, I had another interactive learning experience. I had to learn to work with a group. I would offer my ideas and sometimes they would be brushed off. I would have to keep putting them out there. Then, a team member would say, “Maybe we can do this. Let’s put it in here and change it a little and work it this way.” I was assigned a job: Vice President of Marketing. I had to learn how my position worked with the other girls, like Makay as Vice President of Sales.
I felt uncertain about some of my ideas but when we were in New York, professional marketers told me, “It’s a good idea. You need to add more, but it’s a good start.” I was stunned to hear these professionals talking about my ideas in a serious way. They didn’t think my ideas were silly! That increased my confidence and my willingness to share my ideas and to stand up for them.
Our product, a Collegiate Kit for girls going off to college, had condoms as one of the items in the kit. It turned out to be sort of controversial and caused some arguments. While the Omaha team supported it, girls from some of the other affiliates disagreed. They said, “Girls are not going to college just to have sex.” My team said, “Yes, that’s true, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If a girl decides to have sex, she should be safe.” After all of the discussions, we kept the condoms in the kit.
Interactive programs help girls become better people. For one thing, interacting with others makes you less lonely. Doing something rather than just reading about it or hearing about it is a much better way to learn. I can tell you that reading about knife skills is very different than actually handling a knife in cooking class – swinging a knife or holding a knife properly. There is no substitution for actually doing it. You also feel the pride and accomplishment from doing it. Girls Inc. gives girls so many opportunities to do it and that is something that really, really helped me to learn, to know the next steps, and to understand the lesson. Gardening, cooking, science, art, entrepreneurship, traveling – I had many chances to learn by doing rather than by watching a video about it or hearing someone talk about it. That is a big part of what Girls Inc. was for me – hands on!
My plan, after high school graduation, is to attend the University of Nebraska at Lincoln to study journalism. I was able to visit the UNL campus with Girls Inc. I like that it is a large campus. I can see myself there, learning to navigate between all of the new buildings and streets in Lincoln, Nebraska just like I did in New York City during corporate camp.
I look forward to living in a dorm room with just one other person. It will be a new and strange experience for me to live with a total stranger and to have to adjust to what she is like. I think with just one other person in the room, and no kids or other family members, I will have a chance to relax and to focus more on my studies. My mother is not sure about me living in the dorm. She says, “Mi amor, maybe you should stay home. The dorm will be full of ‘tomar, fumar, y sexo.’” Drinking, smoking, and sex. I tell my mom, “Mami, don’t worry. Girls Inc. has prepared me to live in a college dorm. Don’t you know I am ‘strong, smart, and bold’?”
Girls Inc. inspired my first love of writing as I wrote poems and monologues for Broken Mirror and journaled after our yearly trips or even weekly in the teen center. Some of my writing has been posted on the Girls Inc. blog on our website.
Recently, Girls Inc. staff took us to see the documentary Miss Representation and that made me think about my role as a female in the world of journalism and media. I think the world would be a better place if there were more female journalists. I think women tend to be more sensitive and write about feelings. I am interested in the kind of writing where I can include my point of view.
If possible, this year I would like to interview whoever speaks at our annual fund-raiser Lunch for the Girls. I took journalism in school last year and this year I am in advanced journalism. My teacher has offered to set me up with a shadowing opportunity and I plan to take advantage of her offer.
Girls Inc. has shown me a wider world than the one I live every day. College is the next step on my journey. I plan to graduate and move to a bigger city – like New York! – to pursue my dream of becoming a professional journalist.
When I was younger, I used to watch WWE (wrestling) with my brother. I was so interested in the moves and techniques. My favorite move was the Batista Bomb where a wrestler held a guy over his head and slammed him down. In 7th and 8th grade, I managed my school’s wrestling team. I was the only girl manager in my school and there weren’t any girls managers in the other schools either. People at my school were stunned and they thought I would quit after my first match but I didn’t. I learned how to score and the different points to assign to different wrestling moves, and how to assign points if a wrestler ended up on top or bottom. I learned that you can’t really do some of the moves you see on TV with a real person and that there are actually some moves that are illegal! Most importantly, I learned that a girl can do what a guy can do.
This past year, I modeled for Development Models as part of Omaha Fashion Week for the first time. I also played on my school’s softball team. Even though it’s my first time on the team, I have enjoyed every second of it. In fact, softball has been the best part of my senior year!
There were scary parts to both of these new experiences. In modeling, I worried about falling and keeping my head up. In softball, I worried about getting hit by balls. I got hit by 7 balls the first time I tried out. I have never fallen in a modeling show but I have tripped many times. I have learned to take a pause, regain my balance, and keep walking.
Modeling is all about auditioning, being clean, and wearing makeup. Softball is down and dirty. I played first base and right field. I tried out for center field and left field. Softball is my passion. Modeling lets me be a girly-girl and softball lets me be a tough sports competitor. Both of those are a part of who I am.
When I was modeling, they had to use makeup to cover up the bruises on my legs from playing softball. The other girls in the show said, “You play softball?” The girls on my softball team said, “You model?”
At Girls Inc., no one asks me what I do or is surprised about the things I choose to do. They just say, ‘That’s cool!” At Girls Inc., they accept me for who I am.