Strong Women, Strong Girls is a multi-generational mentoring organization for women and girls. Aerie is so excited to partner with the non-profit organization in their mission to build a pipeline of powerful and diverse female leadership that will transform opportunities for all women and girls! We are proud to continue supporting Strong Women Strong Girls, and this year we awarded them a $10,000 Aerie Real Foundation™ Community Grant, along with hosting a local group at our office with associates for a fun-filled evening together.
Aerie caught up with CEO Natalie Martinez! She’s talking to us about her work with the organization, and what REAL means to her.
Here’s what she had to say…
Get to know CEO Natalie Martinez!
Aerie: Hello! So nice to meet you! We have some get to know YOU questions. Tell us about you and your role with SWSG!
Natalie Martinez: As CEO of Strong Women Strong Girls (SWSG), I have the pleasure and honor of leading an organization and staff team centered on the empowerment of girls, college-aged women, and professional women through thoughtful mentorship programs.
Aerie: What inspired you to work with Strong Women Strong Girls and promote their mission of empowering female role models?
Natalie Martinez: It’s safe to say that every little girl has a dream for herself early in life. Generally, it’s a bright, ambitious dream that she’s confident she can achieve. These dreams are personal and deeply rooted in how she feels about herself and sees herself in the world. That dream evolves and takes shape as that little girl grows over time into adulthood. Our research shows that after the age of 11, a girl’s confidence drops by 30% and doesn’t recover to those same levels until she’s in her mid-thirties.
That little girl was me. At a very early age, I was shy but filled with confidence. I had dreams of being a singer, photographer, and scientist. The sky was the limit. My confidence was unmatched. Over the years those dreams began to fade, and my outlook on life changed for the worst. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I met my first mentor who saw the light in me and flamed the fire of potential. She often told me what she saw in me and challenged me to go after my dreams, and I believed her, so I did.
Her belief in me and constant words of encouragement changed the trajectory of my life. When I was approached with the opportunity to lead SWSG, an organization focused on positive mentorship and confidence, I jumped at the chance. In my role, I wake up each day with a palpable desire to make a difference in the lives of women and girls. Like my mentor who saw my childhood flame of joy and courage smothered by life’s circumstances and self-doubt, I, too, desire to fan the flames of confidence in women and girls through SWSG’s unique multi-generational mentorship model.
Aerie: As you know, REAL is Aerie’s mission and mantra. When you hear the word REAL, what does it mean to you? Do you think REAL applies to your work with SWSG? How?
Natalie Martinez: When I hear the word REAL, I think of courage. Being REAL means having the courage and fortitude to be one’s authentic self. So often, we are made to or think we have to hide who we truly are in order to fit within the mold, social constructs, or status quo that has been established by people and forces outside ourselves. Being REAL is like a breath of fresh air or a nice warm sip of tea. It’s liberating in that it allows us to take the mask off, spread our wings, and give of ourselves to everyone we encounter, which in the end is truly a gift to ourselves and the receiver.
Get to know SWSG!
Aerie: We’re so excited to partner with and learn more about SWSG! Thank you for helping us share all the details about your organization with our Aerie community! How does SWSG make a difference and help young girls build a brighter future?
Natalie Martinez: Strong Women, Strong Girls champions the aspirations and potential of girls from under-resourced communities through innovative, multi-generational mentorship experiences centered on the lessons of strong women role models. Our research-based, skill-building curriculum is grounded in the “Six Cs” of Positive Youth Development which are connection, competence, confidence, character, caring, and contribution.
The focus of our program is on the social and emotional determinants of academic and career success, as well as mental and physical health. Our program uses mentoring to achieve outcomes in Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), an educational approach in which the social and emotional skills necessary for success are deliberately cultivated. In our program, mentorship is a bridge between under-resourced women and girls and educational success, financial opportunity, health, achievement, agency, and wholeness.
Emphasis on leadership in our curriculum fosters civic participation, opening the lines of communication between under-resourced women and girls and decision-makers in their communities. We connect women and girls to their full power and potential, providing them with the skills they need to find long-term success and ultimately give back to their communities.
Aerie: Tell us a little bit about how SWSG and Aerie will be working together!
Natalie Martinez: SWSG has a long-standing relationship with American Eagle Outfitters and Aerie both, which we are so grateful for. Most recently, Aerie worked with SWSG to hold a special event for several of the girls in our program to celebrate MLK Jr. Day – it was a huge hit with the girls! We’re glad to be part of Aerie’s efforts to spread their REAL message. Both AEO and Aerie have also generously provided funding to SWSG to ensure the continuation and success of our mentorship programming.
Aerie: What does cultural representation mean to SWSG and how has it impacted your organization?
Natalie Martinez: At SWSG we understand “if you can see it, you can achieve it” and for us, that means representation in all forms. Our organization has made a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DIEB). Belong represents empathy and the opportunity to bring one’s unique perspective and background to the world. We take great pride in offering a wide range of role models and activities that we feel are inclusive and representative of the cultures in the communities we serve.
Aerie: Tell us about the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a day of national service and how SWSG honors and continues the work of Dr. King.
Natalie Martinez: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as a national day of service, demonstrates our commitment as individuals and a country to the invaluable work, messages, and legacy of Dr. King. To quote Dr. King “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” SWSG has over 700 college women and professionals who give their time in service to mentorship and the empowerment of over 1000 elementary school girls.
Want to get involved, too? You can learn more about the many ways you can support Strong Women, Strong Girls here. Find out how to have Strong Women, Strong Girls at your school or community center, how to volunteer or network, as well as how to get involved in the Pittsburgh or Boston chapters!
How can my daughter be a part of your strong women strong girls program?
Hi Stacie! Be sure to check out their website here on how to get involved!