Since becoming a mother, I find myself looking for opportunities where I can be a positive role model for my daughters while helping my overall community. By “community,” I don’t just mean Staten Island; I am also referring to the visually impaired. When I saw an advertisement for Girls World Expo looking for a local ambassador to assist in developing a teen girl advisory board, I knew I wanted to get involved. As a blind woman, raising two kids, “I’m not your average girl,” but Girls World Expo saw my presence as a learning opportunity both for thier organization and their teenage volunteers.
What Is The Girls World Expo?
Girls World Expo is a national movement of one-day events for teenage girls. Each Expo is diversely designed to connect girls with their community, empowering them to discover their potential, find their best path to personal and professional success, meet new people, try new things and have fun! Varinda Missett, founder of the organization grew her brand as a personal venture of what she saw in the lives of her own daughters; too many negative influences and far too few positive. As a mother, she understood how vulnerable young women are at this crucial stage in their lives. Girls World strives to reframe self-esteem, introducing visible, high achieving female role models and helping young women connect with their peers. Girls World wants more – for our daughters, for us, and for everyone. They know each of these girls’ lives has the potential for greatness. Realizing that potential, however, requires that we offer girls something more than what has been available.
Role of the Girls Advisory Board:
One of the unique aspects to the success of the Expos is the leadership exhibited by the Girls Advisory Board. In each city, Girls World works to create a board of local teen girls who will take ownership of the Expo, by helping to shape the distinctive content as well as through on-site management the day of the event.
The Girls Advisory Board is comprised of a chairperson who leads the group in overseeing the tasks associated with the show, as well as taking an active emcee role the day of by introducing key speakers, sharing information with the attendees and directing the flow throughout the day. Each additional girl on the Advisory Board takes a leadership role over their key component, such as Art, Science, Social Media/Public Relations, Entertainment, & Speakers. These categories may vary Expo to Expo.
My role as the local ambassador was to find girls who could benefit from the experience and bring their own talents to the table. Together, we helped design programming that spoke directly to the community of Staten Island. I began recruiting girls in late August, communicating mostly throught text, email, and phone conversations. Since teenagers are so savy when it comes to the digital universe, these smart young women developed friendships through social media platforms.
Not Your Average Girl:
According to the website Blind New World, there are 7 million blind people in the world, yet more than half of Americans report they have not seen a blind person recently. Think about that…half of Americans can’t remember the last time they saw someone who was visually impaired. Why is that? You know we’re out there. Are we that inconspicuous wielding canes or traveling with dogs? Is it easier to just look the other way? Or is the real reason the blind are not seen is because we too often take on supporting roles in organizations?
I was very forthcoming with the young women who worked with me during the Expo. I also wanted to ensure they were educated about both my vision loss and alopecia prior to the event. By working with their parents, and having the support of Girls World, these families had a unique experience… seeing a bald, visually impaired woman (with a guide dog) in a leadership role. Frances guided me from 8am to 5pm, up and down the venue, as we helped our girls run this amazing event. And you know what? My advisory kids killed it!
400 influential attendees made their way to The College in Staten Island in Willowbrook on October 14, 2018. The all-day affair included workshops, performances, vendors and seminars to empower women of all ages and backgrounds. The event was completely free and held multiple seminars on confidence, building your brand, self defense, CPR training, computer science and achieving happiness.
I have often said, “If we want to create a more inclusive world, it begins with our children.” I encourage all Blind Motherhood’s followers to look for opportunities in your own community to collborate with organizations who will help elevate your prescence and educate others about disability. My special thanks to Varinda Missett and her team for being so willing to have someone with a visual imapirment lead these young women. They recognized the value of my contribution and I was honored to work with such a forward thinking organization. To see if Girls World Expo is heading to your city, visit www.girlsworldexpo.com.