( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Mentor Rasheda Williams Dedicates Her Time to Help Youth Become Empowered
ENSPIRE Contributor: Taylor Groft
Rasheda Kamaria Williams is the Chief Empowering Officer for Empowered Flower Girl, a social enterprise on a mission to transform the way young people relate to one another and themselves. Empowered Flower Girl will be celebrating 10 years of service to the community, this year. Williams has been dedicated to being the change for young people since her senior year of college and has been a mentor and mentoring advocate. Williams believes that transformation is possible if youth have positive role models.
Before the pandemic, Williams worked with educators and afterschool professionals in helping students live above life’s drama. Since March, Williams saw a greater need to help youth advocates break down barriers and to engage students. Last month, Williams launched Girl World Peace Academy, which is a virtual program for teachers, counselors, and others who work to empower youth.
What made you realize that you wanted to help young people that are battling life’s drama?
A: Growing up, I was teased and bullied relentlessly–especially in middle school. Simultaneously, my father was incarcerated and my mother struggled to make ends meet. I faced many of the same challenges that 21st-century teens face. But they have additional challenges like cyberbullying and increased societal pressure. Also, because of my experience as a mentor and having a teenage nephew and three teenage nieces at the time, I knew I had to do something to help empower them.
That’s why I wrote Be EmPOWERed: Love to Live Above & Beyond Life’s Drama. I want young people to understand that life isn’t always easy or fair. But if they’re equipped with the right tools, it makes the process more meaningful. They can learn a lot–especially from themselves.
What kind of transformation have you seen since becoming a mentor and role model for young people?
A: Since I was a college senior, I’ve been dedicated to being the change for young people. I became a mentor as a way to shift the focus from my pain and trauma to help others and I was healed in the process. At the time, I was experiencing depression and PTSD after losing two close relatives. Mentoring saved my life.
Since that experience, I’ve been an advocate for mentoring. I even delivered a TEDx talk entitled “Mentoring Makes a Difference.” I believe that transformation is possible if youth have positive role models.
What kind of work did you do before the pandemic? How have those things changed?
A: Before the pandemic, I worked with schools and community organizations in facilitating programs that increase empathy and self-esteem among participants. I would mostly conduct in- and after-school workshops for students as well as adults. In the fall of 2019, I started receiving emails and calls from schools and organizations in remote areas or those with limited budgets that needed access to online professional development to help them help their students.
As a result, in January 2020, I started working on the curriculum for Girl World Peace Academy, a virtual course for youth advocates. It was divine timing. Now, most of the work I do with Empowered Flower Girl (EFG) is done virtually. In addition to being the chief empowering officer for EFG, I also work as a mentoring consultant for the State of Michigan. Nearly 100% of my consulting work is done via Zoom and email these days.
What made you want to launch Girl World Peace Academy?
A: In my work, I saw a great need to help counselors, after-school program directors and educators break down barriers and engage students, especially our girls who are 3 times more likely than boys to experience online harassment as well as higher rates of depression. In July 2020, during Empowered Flower Girl’s 10-year-anniversary month, I launched Girl World Peace Academy.
Did you have a positive role model when growing up? If so, what have they done that you have adopted with being a mentor and role model? If not, what do you think would have been different if you didn’t have a role model?
A: Yes. I did. When I was younger, I aspired to be a business professional among other things. When I started my first summer job at age 13, I met Sandra Clemons, a female executive who was confident and powerful, yet down-to-earth and compassionate. Before meeting her, I thought all adults in high-profile positions were boring and way too serious. Not Mrs. Clemons. She had a great sense of humor and positive attitude. I was so impressed with her that I asked her to be my mentor. She helped instill in me integrity, honesty, poise and confidence.
Young people need positive role models. According to MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, 1 in 3 young people in the U.S. face growing up without a mentor. Mentors make a profound difference.
Rasheda Kamaria Williams is an empowering woman who puts her best foot forward when it comes to helping the youth around her. She is creating communities dedicated to helping others, especially young people who may be struggling in society. Williams has helped youth all around her and continues to do so, today.