Article By: Miriam Kamara
Lilli-Ann Leconte was just 14 years old and a new resident of Georgia in 2016 when her mother signed her up for the G.I.R.L.S. Leadership Program at I Am B.EA.U.T.I.F.U.L, a non-profit organization dedicated to building leadership skills and high self-esteem.
Her mother thought it would be a good opportunity for Leconte to be more respectful of her elders and gain confidence.
“It’s helped me be more respectful to adults. It’s helped me meet new people and learn that I am beautiful. It taught me that I don’t need to act like certain people to be who I am.”
Two years later, Leconte continues to participate in the leadership and mentorship programs and attend monthly meetings held by I Am B.EA.U.T.I.F.U.L. The program has helped her to flourish academically and socially.
Leconte is one of the hundreds of young girls I Am B.EA.U.T.I.F.U.L has served since its conception in 2005 in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The ‘beautiful’ in the organization’s title is an acrostic that stands for Brave, Energetic, Assertive, Unique, Tenacious, Important, Fabulous, Unequaled and Loved. The organization’s leadership and mentorship programs aim to help their clients live the B.EA.U.T.I.F.U.L life by imparting these attributes and more onto them.
By age 13, 53% of American girls have low self-esteem; by age 17 this number goes up to 78%. I Am B.EA.U.T.I.F.U.L strives to combat these statistics with their programs that aim to immerse girls in an uplifting and encouraging environment. Two of the most prominent programs that the organization has are the HOPE Mentoring (Helping Others Pursue Excellence) and G.I.R.L.S. Leadership Program (Gaining Insight & Real Life Skills). Both programs serve girls aged 6-18. Each program aims to provide their clients with skills to help them succeed in life such as decision-making, goal setting, academic excellence, college prep, career development, socialization, and improved self-esteem.
Co-founder and CEO of I Am B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L, Dr. Tina Woodard, realized the importance of building self-esteem in young girls while teaching at an event several years before founding the organization with her sister, Dr. Zenobia Edwards.
“We got into the topic of self-esteem and I passed around a mirror and asked each girl if they liked what they saw. No one really said that they did,” Dr. Woodard recalls. “I then asked the girls to write down things they like about themselves, no one could name anything. I then asked them to write what they wanted to change about themselves and that’s when they started writing. I’ll never forget one girl even flipped the page over to continue writing. Many of their answers were appearance based.”
The sisters held their first event in 2005 with the expectation of 25 girls in attendance. They had a little over 85 participants. Many of the girls and teachers in attendance were grateful for their event and remarked on how positive and uplifting it was. From then on, the organization grew along with the addition of staple events such as the annual Pink & Black Ball. The event this year highlights each young woman in the program as an emerging female leader in her community.
Woodard knows from personal experience the struggles that young women face when it comes to self-love and self-esteem. She sees herself in many of the girls her organization helps and strives to make sure they go down a healthier path.
“I was one of those girls. I made serious mistakes that were due to low self-esteem. When I see girls doing some of the same things and making some of the same types of decisions I’m just like ‘let me help you!’” Woodard says. “My heart goes out to these girls who are struggling to find themselves and figuring out their value and their worth. I just want to help them, I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I did.”
As for Leconte, she wants girls who are curious about I Am B.E.A.U.T.I.F.UL to know that the organization has the potential to have an inspiring and positive effect on their life no matter their circumstance.
“It’s a program that helps girls to know that they are beautiful. You are perfect in your own skin. What it means to me is that I don’t need change myself to please other people. If you ever feel like you don’t have anyone that has your back, they have your back. They take in anyone no matter their background. If you’re struggling with confidence issues, the program will help you overcome all of that,” says Leconte.
This article was written by Miriam Kamara and was originally posted on 4/10/2018.