Honoring The Journey Of My Younger Self, I Started An Org. Empowering Young Black Girls To Become Confident Leaders

By Tameka Kee, founder of Power of Girls

I still remember the exact day it happened. My husband asked me, if you could do anything career-wise just for merit and satisfaction, not getting paid, what would it be? Without hesitation, I answered “help girls”. It took me back to the pivotal moment in middle school my life changed forever.

As a young teenager, I loved my drama class, but, lacked the confidence necessary to perform on stage. During this same time, my teacher invited my grandmother and I on a student trip to Greece and Italy. The idea of leaving the country, let alone New York, was something that I hadn’t thought of as a young African American girl in my community. That said, I can’t express enough how life-changing this trip was for me and my development. The international exposure gave me a heightened sense of perspective, and my confidence did a complete 180. I went from a timid, uncertain teenage girl to running for and winning 8th grade class president when I returned home. 

Fast-forwarding back to my husband’s question, that middle school girl was awoken inside of me, and I had to do something about it. I was working as a Community Relations Manager at the Atlanta Dream basketball team at the time, and while my job was fulfilling, I had to step out on my calling. The Power of Girls had been my dream, and I was so excited to make it come true. 

I met up with a friend and began writing a business plan. I held several national and local girl’s empowerment organizations as model references but wanted to incorporate that special piece I knew would be key in the strong development of girls during those developmental years, especially in the urban communities I planned on serving. In addition to my personal experience, there are several studies that prove young girls receiving international exposure helps develop critical skills like leadership, enhanced sense of perspective and cultural awareness.

In 2019, The Power of Girls launched its first cohort, and I could not have been prouder of the support and impact it has had on girls. Each year, we select a class of middle schoolers and develop a one-year curriculum focusing on developing confidence, leadership skills and self-awareness. Of course, adding in the invaluable piece of international travel and exposure. 

With COVID, we’ve had to get a little creative. We introduced a variety of online programs, webinars and meet-ups with mentees to continue supporting them! My team and I curated an online playlist of girl’s empowerment songs and partnered with Eleven Twenty-Two Candle Company to help support our sessions, camps and 2021 international trip! We also are proud to have the luxury of a tight-knit Alumni network! Girls that complete their cohort become alumni and can stay connected in a big sister sort of way. 

In addition to these core elements of the structured curriculum, we like to foster a comfortable, authentic environment for mentees. We want them to feel comfortable sharing with us and feel authentically connected to fellow mentees and mentors. 

One of our mentees decided to run for student body president at her middle school. Of course, even announcing and organizing a campaign during your teenage years takes great courage, confidence and leadership skills, so our Power of Girls family was extremely excited to see her pursue such a role! Mentors and mentees helped her prepare and take great positivity into her outlook on dominating the race! But, equally as important, we did practice how to handle disappointment if the outcome did not go her way. It’s so important to me for Power of Girls to teach our mentees how to react and handle adversity as a critical life skill. So, when she ended up not winning, you can imagine the disappointment this 12-year-old experienced. 

But, in my eyes, this ended up being one of her greatest victories, and one of my proudest moments for The Power of Girls. The mentee sent me a long text message explaining her disappointment but taking a jaw-dropping mature perspective. She shared how she understands that sometimes things don’t go your way, but you can’t let it keep you down or impair how you think about yourself. She wanted to study how she could improve her strategy if she wanted to run again, and other ways that she can support her school. I cried when while reading this text message. It was such a full circle moment, my intentions for developing these young girls was working, and it was so surreal. 

One of my parents shared how The Power of Girls saved her child’s life. Throughout her childhood and early adolescence, her daughter had struggled with confidence and suicidal thoughts. She was deeply worried about her daughter’s mental state and if she would be receptive to the program because of the severity of the situation. Now, the young lady is extremely confident, maybe even one of our most confident mentees! 

If someone asks me my goal for The Power of Girls, it is for this to continue to happen. If one girl comes back to me in their adulthood and reaffirms how his program changed their life for the better, I will be truly satisfied. Of course, the more the better, so logistically, national expansion is my ultimate goal. Fingers crossed! 

For more information on The Power of Girls, please visit our website www.thepowerofgirls.org.

Tameka Kee is the Founder & CEO, leading the strategic vision and direction of The Power of Girls. Tameka has over 20 years of experience in experiential marketing, community development and partnership activation. She has also held community relations positions with the Atlanta Falcons (NFL) and Atlanta Dream (WNBA) where she developed programming focused on health and wellness, youth mentoring and women’s initiatives. A graduate of Old Dominion University, Tameka earned her Bachelor of Science in business administration and marketing. She previously served on committees for GoGirlGo! and Usher’s New Look Foundation.