stephanie-your-girl-for-good
Washington Area Women's Foundation

Change Starts with Sisterhood…

Growing up, I was always the kid to sign up for free after school activities and events. I loved getting the chance to meet new people, try hands-on activities, and build lasting friendships. Unfortunately, as I grew older, there became fewer free or low cost after school programs for me to attend in my community. My freshman year of high school became bleak. My family couldn’t afford to put me in sports or music classes because the cost of the equipment was too high. My sister, Kelly, informed me of an opportunity at the Smithsonian. They were offering a paid internship for high school students at the National Museum of Natural History. Much to my surprise, after submitting my application and completing my in person interview, I was selected. That year has to this day been one of the most impactful periods of my life. Being surrounded by young kids of color who had similar backgrounds like mine made me realize that we all had the potential to be successful in any field regardless of what mainstream media had told us. My time at the Smithsonian showed me how important mentorship, STEM education, and safe spaces are for young kids of color.

My self confidence in applying to other programs skyrocketed after my time at  the Smithsonian. I became part of Girls Who Code’s DC summer immersion program, Hackathons, Harvard’s MCC Youth Council, and the HerLead fellowship program. I realized that the reason I kept coming back and applying to new programs was because I loved being in spaces that allowed kids in marginalized communities feel like they had boundless potential, and were surrounded by mentors who provided them with guidance and support. I created Your Girl for Good as a HerLead Fellow during my Junior year of High School. I realized that the main reason why kids oftentimes do not consider a career in STEM, art, or politics is because they lack diversity. I wanted to give kids the opportunity that I was fortunate enough to have while at the same time tailoring it specific to young girls of color in the DC area. Your Girl for Good’s mission is to provide our participants with hands on activities and workshops led by successful women of color in STEM, Art, and Political sectors. We held our first Summer Mentorship Program in Columbia Heights in the summer of 2017 and partnered with the ACLU, Emily’s List, the NIH, the Smithsonian, and other local DC area organizations. Even now, our former participants have remained in contact with their mentors from our first program. One of our summer mentorship program participants, Farhana, met her mentor through Your Girl for Good who later wrote her her college letter of recommendation and they remain close to this day. 

Your Girl For Good team members Stephanie Villanueva-Villar, Shams Ibrahim Hamid, Iman Yousfi
Your Girl For Good team members Stephanie Villanueva-Villar, Shams Ibrahim Hamid, Iman Yousfi

In 2018, the Your Girl for Good team and I were invited to attend Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s GirlsLEAD Summit. The day was filled with diverse and prominent speakers, interactive workshops, and lectures focused on different topics that impact communities of color. While scrambling with excitement from classroom to classroom, trying to make our next activity on time, we came across a flyer mentioning that the WAWF was going to be launching their Rock Star Fund for local DC area women and girls who wanted to create change in their community. It felt like fate when holding that flyer for the first time. For so long we wanted to create our own series of Your Girl for Good summits throughout DC. We applied later that year and were selected to be part of the inaugural class of Rock Star Grantees. 

The experience couldn’t have been better, the team at Washington Area’s Women Foundation has stood by us every step of the way to make sure that our Grant project went smoothly. My team members and I got to meet the other awardees and hear about the important work that they’re doing to help their communities in DC. The BluePrint for Action that we were provided with has tremendously helped Your Girl for Good incorporate important data and advocacy methods into our programs moving forward.

YWAC Alum join 'Your Girl For Good' founders
YWAC Fellows join Your Girl For Good team members Shams Ibrahim Hamid & Iman Yousfi

With the help and guidance from Claudia Williams and Martine Gordon, our Rock Star Fund project went amazing! Young girls of color across DC gathered at the Public Welfare Foundation to have an open and honest discussion about the importance of mental health and building healthy relationships through our partnerships with SMYAL and Planned Parenthood. Through our painting and vision board making workshops, we were able to get our participants to focus on their personal aspirations and self-reflect. Our Art & Mental Health summit was a perfect way to end the summer as students return to school later this month. We here at Your Girl for Good are so excited for what’s to come. We know that the future is brighter and stronger when people and organizations stand behind and support  young women of color.

  • Kelly R. Villanueva

    I think that the best way to see progress is to make it. I commend you on your work and dedication to helping young women of color connect with mentors and to believe in themselves. I believe in you. I’m glad my Smithsonian essay review helped you complete a winning application. I’m proud of you sis!