BUFFALO, N.Y. — Inspiring youth is necessary, but it's not always easy, especially in today's society.
When it comes to her nonprofit, Confident Girl Mentoring, Tiffany Lewis says since 2016 her goal and her mission have never changed: to empower, inspire, and give young girls a safe space to share their voices and opinions.
During the course of four years, Lewis has mentored 2,000 girls throughout Western New York, with 90 percent of them being Black and brown girls of color.
Girls anywhere from ages 7 to 19 can participate in her free programming, thanks to grants, partnerships, and funds of her very own.
"I want to talk and teach these young girls about things that I never knew or always wondered about," Lewis says.
But when it comes to empowering girls and young women, especially those of color, it's not always easy, especially when history and society are constantly reinforcing messages about the beauty of their bodies over the beauty of their minds.
"It's unfortunate that we have to, you know, say these things to our girls. But we're already classified as ratchet, or not having the common sense to be able to communicate effectively without screaming or without yelling," she said.
Being a Black woman is hard. Lewis says that even though she is the president and CEO of a mentoring program, every day she has to remind her girls that she too has to fight for her voice and the legitimacy of her organization.
"Even though my program is an evidence-based program, I'm still fighting every day, and I want these girls to know that everything I say, all of our workshops and programs are based on things that I myself went through. How else could I possibly be a good mentor?" she said.
Starting September 23, Lewis is kicking off yet another free workshop. This time, for 12 weeks, girls ages 7 to 19 can meet virtually and in-person to learn about issues such as self-esteem, confidence building, healthy relationships, teen pregnancy and much more.
"We will be focusing on the mind, body and spirit, all of these things are part of female empowerment," Lewis says.
While this program is open to all girls and culturally sensitive, Lewis says she strongly recognizes the power of having mentors that you can relate to, especially for young people in communities of color where mentors often have lasting impacts.
It's important, she says, for girls of color to see her and watch her work. To learn, by example, that they have the ability, the beauty, and the wisdom to achieve whatever they set their minds to.
Registration is still open for the September 23 workshop, and volunteers are still needed.