5 Tips for Empowering Girls


Too often, adolescent girls feel powerless. That may be because our parents do everything for us, or because we just haven’t taken our first steps toward independence. But there are plenty of ways we can become more empowered, confident, and independent. Here are 5 tips for empowering girls!

  1. Become a mentor or a tutor. Many schools have programs enabling you to become a mentor or tutor, so find out if yours does. Take advantage of that opportunity, because it’s not only is a great way to build confidence, it’s also a great way to spread this message of female empowerment!
  2. Take control of what you can. Independence is pretty new to most adolescents. While it is still limited by school and parents, controlling what you can–like your weight, your clothes, and your time–builds the confidence necessary for the upcoming surge of independence.
  3. Join or start a girl empowerment group in your community or school. Most schools have some sort of organized feminist community, such as Girls Who Code, allowing girls to get together and empower each other. Join! It is a great way to get involved in the movement for strong women. If your school doesn’t have that kind of group, why not start it? You could help inspire yourself, and your fellow girls!
  4. Become a leader at school. Besides the group for girls, join other kinds clubs that expose you to new people and experiences, where you can become a leader, or learn leadership skills.
  5. Validate from within. Historically, culturally, women have been valued primarily for their appearance. This kind of superficial mentality has created an environment for young women in which they feel constantly scrutinized and insecure. What you have to remember is that the presence of beauty or intelligence in one girl does not indicate a lack of your own beauty or intelligence. If you see a classmate who you think is just great, validate yourself by thinking, “And I’m great, too.” More than one girl can be pretty, more than one girl can be smart, more than one girl can be great. Build yourself up. You can do it!

You can hear more tips for empowering girls in this segment from my recent appearance on the radio! My part starts at :48 seconds into the segment, if you want to skip ahead!

Mood boosters for Teens


The emotional mountains are very high and the valleys very low in these teen years. If you are feeling caught in one of the valleys, here are a few simple mood boosters for teens:

  1. Exercise- If you need an immediate pick-me-up, getting some exercise, whether it is Zumba class or going for a run, will give you that rush of endorphins to make you feel better.
  2. Get involved- Helping people, be it in organized volunteering or doing some favors for your neighbor, has been shown to boost mood. Focusing on others–instead of yourself–and being a positive influence are surefire ways to feel better.
  3. Get social- You may feel like wallowing in bed all day, but getting out of the house and seeing people who make you happy is a tried and true cure for the blues.
  4. Gratitude journal- Start writing down a few positive notes each night: what you’re grateful for and what made you happy that day. Look for the little things in the day to be happy about. This way, you are focusing on the good. Plus, you can look back at previous entries and relive all of those great little moments!
  5. Eat right- Eating processed, fatty foods can lead to inflammation in the body, which is associated with depression. Exchange that sandwich for a salad and that soda for a water, and you will see a big difference in your mood!

You can hear more about mood boosters for teens in my recent guest segment on Health Check .

I hope this inspires you!

What is your piggy-back ride?

The room was loud, filled with the laughs and chatter of two dozen six-year-old girls. I sat amid the picture books and paper dolls, helping one of the girls with a crossword puzzle– a typical duty of mine at Girls Inc. That’s when there was a tap on my shoulder.

A teary-eyed kindergartener thrust her hand toward me, announcing with a sob that she had a paper cut. I took her little hand in mine to examine the wound. “Aw, I’m sorry,” I told her, “Do you want a Band-Aid? I am sure there are still a few with Hello Kitty on them.” The girl shook her head. “What would make it better?” I asked gently. Paper cuts are a serious business. She sniffed and replied, “How about a piggyback ride?” I partnered my crossword buddy with another volunteer, and hoisted the injured girl onto my back. After trotting for about ten feet, she announced that she felt all better.

Was a piggyback ride really all it took to soothe the cut that had brought tears to her eyes?

I don’t get paper cuts very often; I’ve been reading for quite a while, and I like to consider myself close to going pro at paper-handling. However, there are times when I acquire the teenaged version of a cut like that, usually in the form of stress from school.

So what are my piggyback rides? Are there things that can instantly pull me out of the blues?

After a little personal inventory, I realize that doing some yoga, drinking a good cup of coffee, and watching a favorite movie are things that I count on to heal my paper cuts (The Sound of Music or Sleepless in Seattle usually does the trick). It’s important to know what triggers happiness, just like it’s important to know what triggers paper cuts.


So when you feel the sting of a minor gash, what do you do to feel better? Run, read, or bake? Do you chat with friends, or  lip-sync to your favorite Hamilton song?

Just like my formerly injured friend, be able to name and ask for the happiness triggers in your life. Surround yourself with positivity, and know which positive things you can call on if ever you cut yourself on the paper in your life.



How To Stay Busy in the Summer

1466796446070Painting by Richard Karr

During the school year,  we have far too few lazy days to can catch up on sleep, finish that Jane Austen book, or spend hours watching Gilmore Girls. Now that summer is here, it’s tempting to make EVERY day a lazy day! But as nice as a little relaxation is here and there, it’s vital to stay busy and productive during the summer, not only to keep yourself from getting bored, but also to take advantage of all the time off from school, and squeeze-in some new adventures and experiences. I recently talked about some ways to make the most of the summer on WSRQ-FM.

You can listen to the segment at www.sarasotatalkradio.com.

Some of the highlights I talk about:

  1. Volunteer- The summers are a great time to get in those community service hours for school, but more than that, volunteering is an incredible experience. There are probably many opportunities in your area that will appeal to you. For some, it is helping out at the animal shelter, for others (like me), it is mentoring at organizations like Girls’ Inc. In addition to providing you with new experiences, volunteering gives you the great feeling of satisfaction that comes with helping others.
  2. Get a job– Summertime is also a great chance to earn some extra cash and start saving for college. Not only does a job earn you some money, but it also gives you work experience, which looks great on transcripts!
  3. Find a new hobby– Whether it’s photography, jogging, or blogging, trying out a new pastime will give you the benefits of exposing yourself to new things, and help you discover a new passion.
  4. Take a class– We don’t often get to choose our classes in school, and sometimes that may leave us feeling that learning is not fun as much as it is an ordeal. Taking a summer class in a subject that really inspires you, be it painting or history, is a great way to spend the vacation.
  5. See your friends– While this may seem obvious, it is easy to get busy with summer activities or fall into a pattern of just lying around the house alone. To keep yourself from getting lonely, make sure you schedule some time with friends. Go have lunch, or include them in your summer activities. Take a photography class together, or volunteer at the same organization. It will make whatever you choose to do this summer infinitely more fun!

So what are you doing this summer? Feel free to share!

Following the Leader


This summer, I am volunteering at Girls Inc, a national nonprofit organization inspiring girls to be “strong, smart and bold,” with innovative programs to guide them. Girls choose jobs and clubs within Girls Inc. that appeal to them, and they have scheduled activities like reading and learning about local wildlife. Girls Inc. provides these programs for kindergarten through eighth grade, and this summer I am helping with the kindergartners. My duties include reading with them, making sure they go where they are supposed to, and helping to serve lunch.

Spending time with the girls is very rewarding!  They are fun and they’re eager to learn. I’m learning, too. A recent experience made me think about being a role model and a leader: The girls were a little rowdy, and would not go anywhere in a cohesive group. To quiet everyone down, I called to them, “I am your mama duck! And you are my ducklings! So, when I say, ‘Hello, ducklings!’ you will say, ‘Hello mama duck!'” The girls thought it was the most fun they could be having at that moment, so when I told them to line up like little ducks, they happily got to it. One of the girls started waddling to display her duckling prowess, and immediately all the others began to walk as well, loving that idea. Leadership experience–check!

But this also made me think about the way we are so quick to follow the leader when we are young. Does it make us more prone to follow others when we’re older? How hard is it to break out of the mold, and become a leader instead of a follower?  We can’t just do what others do; we have to grow out of that, we have to follow our own hearts, establish our own trends, and be our own selves.

I cannot wait for more moments like this at my time at Girls Inc.!

What are some ways that you can be a role model? Are you following others, or are you a leader?

GPA Stress

The prospect of having less than a 4.0 GPA is anxiety-inducing for high-school students everywhere, and I am no exception. Anything below an A seems to ruin all chance of scholarships and Ivy League acceptances in the future. However, it is important to realize one or two or three Bs in high school is not the end.

I can think of big reasons for this:

  • For our own sanity, we must understand that getting Bs is not failing; and as long as you worked hard for it, you should be proud of whatever grade you receive.
  • While grades and scores are still key factors on a college application, the 4.0-or-bust mentality that festers among high-school students today is unhealthy and unnecessary. I recently got in touch with Jessica Hunt, the Assistant Director of Honors and Scholarships at the University of Georgia. She told me in an email that “many factors contribute to the application – test scores, essays, letters of recommendation, leadership/service/extra-curriculars, etc. – and a B or two in a subject that is not in your main area of academic interest is not going to tank your chances at all.”

It’s summer now, so we have a few months of relaxation. When school starts again in the fall, however, make sure you remember that a few Bs or even Cs in high school will not keep you from pursuing higher education.

Harriet Tubman Is Coming to Our $20 Bill!


Hey everyone! Some very exciting girl power news this week: Harriet Tubman will be the new face of the $20 bill! She will be the first woman in over one hundred years to be on a bill! The only other time this happened was in the 1880’s, when Martha Washington’s face was printed on the one dollar bill. In addition to this, Tubman now also becomes the first African-American to be featured on U.S. currency, and it’s long overdo.

Tubman was an extraordinary woman and abolitionist, who worked behind enemy lines to usher slaves to safety during the American Civil War. It is entirely fitting, then, that such a brave, important woman should be represented on the face of U.S. currency.

Catherine Clinton, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, wrote a novel called Harriet Tubman: Road to Freedom. In a USA Today article, Clinton said that not many people, even very educated people, realize just how brave and intense Tubman’s actions were.  In that same article (you can find it on my resources page!), Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the book played a big part in Tubman going to the $20 bill. So if you get a chance to read Clinton’s book, I definitely would!

Another victory for women on currency: The story of U.S. women’s suffrage will be told in a series of pictures on the back of the ten dollar bill. No word exactly when. It is part of a move to redesign all U.S. currency. And thanks to the popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit play Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s face will remain on the front of the ten dollar bill.  Other U.S. currency modifications will be made in the future as well, such as creating designs on bills so they are more distinguishable to blind citizens.

I had never thought of currency illustrations as a means of equality, but Harriet Tubman’s pending feature on the face of the $20 bill is a step in the right direction!

National Equal Pay Day

This past Tuesday, April 12, was National Equal Pay Day. This is the day that marks how far into the new year a woman had to work to earn as much as a male counterpart in the previous year. Women all around the United States on Tuesday came together at events marking Equal Pay Day, calling for equality, and remembering how Susan B. Anthony began fighting for equal pay between the sexes in 1868.

The most recent statistic shows women make $0.79 for every one dollar that a man makes for the same amount of work at the same job. My question is WHY? Eileen Patten writes about a Pew Research Center survey that suggests women are interrupting their careers to care for their families, which can have an impact on earnings. The same survey notes that part of the pay gap may also be due to gender discrimination.

The good news is that we young women have the power to change this. Awareness is the first step. But do you know how this affects women, why it affects women and how we can achieve paycheck equality?

What will you do about the issue of unequal pay between men and women?

Here are some links to resources I found helpful in understanding the gender pay gap:

Pew Research Center survey: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/14/on-equal-pay-day-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

John Green explaining the details of the gender pay gap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it0EYBBl5LI

The truth about some common thoughts on the gender pay gap: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-the-gender-pay-gap/2014/07/25/9e5cff34-fcd5-11e3-8176-f2c941cf35f1_story.html

A guide to understanding the gender pay gap: http://www.aauw.org/files/2015/02/The-Simple-Truth_Spring-2015.pdf

Discussing paid work versus unpaid work: http://www.oecd.org/gender/data/balancingpaidworkunpaidworkandleisure.htm

Inspiration from the courtroom

My visit with Sarasota County Judge Judy Goldman.

Trailblazer: Webster defines this as a person who blazes a trail through wild country. Sarasota County Judge Judy Goldman embodies this definition. She spent time as a uniformed auxiliary police officer in the City of Tampa, made headlines as the first woman prosecutor hired by the State Attorney’s Office in the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida, worked in three law firms for a decade, then sought and won a seat as a Sarasota County judge in 1989, which she’s held ever since. She is constantly giving back to the community as a prominent member of female legal organizations.

Recently I had the opportunity to observe Judge Goldman in court. I was struck with her kind, wise presence, and the way she guided both prosecution and defense to positive outcomes.

So I felt honored when I later had the chance to spend time with Judge Goldman. She invited me to sit next to her on the bench, where I could see every inch of navy carpet in the courtroom, and how that tall oak desk could command such respect. It was empowering to sit with her, the flags of Florida and the United States nobly standing behind us.

But with power, Judge Goldman told me, comes great responsibility. She explained how she cautiously wields her authority and legal expertise for the types of cases she hears, such as criminal misdemeanors (DUI, domestic battery, shoplifting, and prostitution cases), citizen or small claims disputes, and traffic violations with serious injury or death. “You can have your own opinions, thoughts and emotions about a case, but you can’t let those interfere with how you interpret the law,” she said.

How does she levy justice? “I do everything I can to get the person I sentence to a better place. I believe in a therapeutic component to punishment, whether it’s counseling or community service. You have to give something back to the community where you committed the crime,” she said.

To me, it was most inspiring to hear about Judge Goldman’s journey, which began when few women worked within Florida’s court system. There was some discrimination, but mostly behind the scenes. “Sure, it was harder as a woman. I remember when women couldn’t even get nominations from the Judicial Nominating Commission. But fast forward to the present, and only one out of our five County Judges is a man,” she told me. Time, Judge Goldman believes, has changed old-fashioned perceptions about women in law to today’s more modern stance. “We’ve come to a good place respect-wise. It is not so female-versus-male anymore.”

Judge Goldman pointed out that many prosecutors and defense attorneys are women now, and that women—even judges—have found ways to make it possible to have a family life, too. “I struggled to get my kid to school and then get to court early. Now we have judges who say they can’t start hearing cases until after they’ve taken their kids to school. How empowered these women are,” she said.

When I asked for advice about following in Judge Goldman’s footsteps, she said that being a judge is not for everyone, but it is rewarding. Best way to find out? “Come meet with us,” she said. “Spend some time to see if being a judge is a job that you would like. The position comes with difficult ethical balances and a somewhat isolating code of conduct, but it is never boring. I never stop learning in court, be it about human nature or the law or how they go hand-in-hand. I still find it fascinating.”

Thank you, Judge Goldman!


Study Tips!

2016-04-03 20.10.20

The season of AP Exams is coming up fast! I am currently taking AP World History, and I am well into my test preparation.

It can be quite daunting to think about all of the information and specific testing strategies that you must remember for the exam, so here are some study tips that have been helping me.

  1. Give yourself enough time to study. While already dealing with the stress of preparing, you want to make sure that you give yourself enough time to effectively go over everything and not feel totally overwhelmed.  Make a plan for how much you will study each day, so you can spread it out over the next few weeks.
  2. Highlight. Color coding sections in your notes or the review book makes it easier to go back and see the main ideas. It also is much more interesting and stimulating to your brain than a regular textbook page when there is lots of color.
  3. Take a break. Remember to build in you-time during study sessions. It is easy to fry the brain, not only making studying miserable, but also inhibiting you from retaining information. Take a five-minute yoga break, or go get a snack to stay energized.
  4. Make it fun. Studying does not have to be a chore. Go to the library with friends, make up lyrics to remember place names, or put on some Taylor Swift to help you get things done without draining yourself.
  5. Take practice tests. You probably know more than you think you do! Do not stress yourself out by overestimating, or underestimating, the difficulty and depth of the test questions. Find out what you are up against and then figure out a battle plan.

I hope these tips help you. Happy studying!