If you've never heard of the step up women's network, check out their website-http://www.suwn.org/. I have been involved with them for a number of years. The Step Up Women's Network is an organization that helps teenage girls grow into empowered adults. Along with enthusiastic participants like me, Step Up runs programs for underserved girls- read that as girls coming from parts of town or from families where resources are limited.
These programs help kids get the tools they need to create a better future for themselves. Not everyone has friends or family who can teach or mentor them, to make sure they understand and know what is expected of them as they become adults and enter the workforce. We try to mentor them to become the girls that colleges want to accept or that employers want to hire.
Step Up Women's network ran a workshop here in the city recently, and I was thrilled to be in charge of the bracelet design class. Of course, it's not just a bracelet design class, as we get to bond, socialize and hopefully they learned a thing or two from me about what it takes to succeed. Their motto is "Invest, Involve and Inspire" and I hope i inspired the girls that were in my class.
Amazingly, this workshop consisted of a group of girls who were all from queens - even though it was held in manhattan. We queens kids stick together, I told the group that one of my first jobs was at Clinique, and the owner of this brand was Estee Lauder. Although most people think of her as descended from european royalty, she was born Josephine Esther Mentzer and was born and raised in Corona, Queens (just like me). Her family called her Esty that became Estee after a school official misspelled it on some paperwork.
They lived in the apartment above her father's hardware store on Corona Avenue, which these days is the street where you'll find my two all-time queens favorite places, the Parkside restaurant and the lemon ice king of corona.
So, with a bit of shared geography in common, we had a fantastic time. I love working with kids, you hope you can give them some advice, inspiration and tools to help them as they grow up. They were curious about my background, and I explained that as a kid i participated in a similar program run by the city of new york, the student art league which met every Saturday at a school in queens. With my parents help and encouragement from my teachers, I found my future and consider myself blessed.
Through something as simple as a jewelry workshop, you can help teenage girls build self-esteem, help them find their dreams and learn to stick with it despite the odds against them. Step up helps kids focus on thier health and well-being. And, in this workshop, I got to show these wonderful teenagers some examples of super-succesful women who grew up on the same streets they live on now- queens was the home of Ella Fitzgerald and Dr. Joyce Brothers. The borough president of queens, Helen Marshall is the first black and the second woman borough president in history, and we got to discuss what it takes for people like these to make it in new york city after growing up in queens. After my day with these kids, I know that there are plenty of future success stories in this group of kids from queens! ciao.