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Mentorship program empowers girls through sisterhood
EmpowHERment, Inc. is more than an organization. It's a movement.
 
Published Thursday, March 28, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, one Charlotte woman continues her mission of empowering girls to leave legacies of their own someday.

clientuploads/v38n13photos/EmpowHERment_300.jpg
PHOTO/PAUL WILLIAMS III
EmpowHERment Inc. participants gathered at founder Carrie Cook's Charlotte home last week. The initiative pairs girls with women mentors to develop character and leadership.

“We are teaching women how to develop, define and defend their voice and be confident in who they are,” said Carrie Cook, founder of EmpowHERment Inc.

The nonprofit organization’s mission is empowering a continuous network of girls and women to be leaders in their community through mentorship, character development and advocacy.

Cook said that with so many girls looking to women on reality-TV shows and raunchy music videos as role models, such a program is needed more now than ever.

“I had a ton of people who cared about me,” Cook said. ”I think that’s one thing that’s lacking in some instances with today’s youth. A lot of them don’t feel like somebody genuinely is that third-party support or a nonfamily member who cares about them. We should understand that they are our future. We should invest in them because that’s an investment in us and in our community as a whole.”

A divine intervention

Cook said the concept for EmpowHERment hit her “like a ton of bricks.”

In 2011, she contracted a bacterial infection during a trip to China and had to have surgery when she returned to the States. As one who generally keeps a busy schedule working as a congressional staffer, Cook believes the illness was a divine intervention of sorts.

“I think that was God’s way of saying ‘I need to do this to get your attention because you are ripping and running here and there I need to sit you down to talk to you,'” she said.

Cook was recovering in her hospital bed reading “Sun Stand Still” by Steven Furtick of Elevation Church when she believes she heard a word from God.

“It’s like God just sat it on my heart to do more for women and girls,” she said.

That was July. By August, her plan was in motion.

Cook held the first Youth EmpowHERment Summit with a goal of having at least 100 female students come together with mentors from various walks of life. She succeeded.

“When God gives you a vision, he makes provisions to carry it out,” she said.

Birth of a movement

After hosting the second annual youth summit in 2012, Cook decided to grow the program.

“I decided in order to really grow the empowerment movement and vision, we needed to officially become an organization with a brand and identity that folks could really hang their hats on and understand clearly what we were about,” she said.

In the fall of 2012, Cook incorporated EmpowHERment Inc. as a North Carolina nonprofit organization and began hosting monthly events. The mentorship program currently consists of 15 female students in grades 6–12 who are paired with mentors from the community.

“We wanted to show them that there are engineers, chemists, attorneys, paralegals, journalists and many other dynamic women in their own backyard who want to be a support and mentor and resource for them,” Cook said.

While many of the monthly group meetings are restricted to the 15 mentors and mentees currently involved in the program, occasionally the meetings are open to the general community. Sometimes men attend as well.

“It’s important to show that men care about empowering women as well,” Cook said.

Cook plans to expand the program to work with young women on the collegiate level as well as the professional arena.

“We want to help women get connected to good mentors as they are in their careers,” she said. “We also want to make sure that women in college have good mentors… It’s really about that continuum and that network of wherever you are, every woman, in my opinion, needs to be a good mentor and have a good mentor. Those things are important.”

Model citizens

On March 23, Cook held a college preparation workshop in her home, which was attended by about two dozen mentors and mentees. They discussed everything from selecting a major, to balancing studies with a social life and how to pay for tuition.

Salyric Fletcher, 18, who plans to major in biology at N.C. A&T State University, attended Saturday’s meeting with her mentor Crystal Jeter, an A&T graduate.

“It’s good to have mentors,” Fletcher said. “It shows me the things that I could have and the lifestyle that I could live with the right education to get me there.”

Jeter said being a mentor is important because not everyone is blessed to have positive role models within their own families.

“I grew up with very strong women around me,” she said. “But going to college and being part of a sorority, [I’ve] come across a lot of girls and young women who didn’t’ necessarily have the same type of backing that [I] had. So I think it’s good to reach back and give them those resources.”

“I don’t consider us as just an organization,” Cook said. “I see this as a movement. I really want the EmpowHERment movement to take over our city and our globe so that we can empower more women and girls to maximize their full potential.”

Cook said EmpowHERment Inc. is always looking for mentors and recommendations for mentees that could benefit from a mentorship. Matches are made for at least one year.

All mentors must undergo a screening process, pass a background check and commit to at least four hours per month.

For more information, visit www.EmpowHERment.com, friend the organization on Facebook or send an email to youthempowherment@gmail.com.

Comments

I've known Carrie since middle school. This doesn't surprise me one bit, because she is one of the most smart, passionate, caring women I've ever known! She expects a lot from others, and even more from herself. She def has that tough love DNA. The EmpowHERment program is in good hands! Carrie's one of those leaders that her presence makes a difference and it's awesome to see that she hasn't stopped being the crazy, high energy, fearless lady that she was when we were teens. Congrats and keep being you. This movement is needed for girls and women everywhere.
Posted on March 30, 2013
 
Turning girls into leaders??? I would argue that girls are already natural born leaders. Our dominant narrative sadly and falsely tells us otherwise. But, thank God for Carrie Cook and the EmpowerHERment mentors for encouraging the innate skills and tendencies inherent in girls from birth. Carrie said it best, tapping into and maximizing our full potential. I agree with her that it is indeed, a movement and not just an organization. In short, the term "Girl Power" oddly combines two words that are synonymous. Girls ARE powerful by nature. Thank you Carrie Cook for the vision to encourage just that! Continued blessings.
Posted on March 29, 2013
 
"Cook said the empowHERment vision hit her like a ton of bricks"...... I can relate. I think we all have those "aha" moments, if we stay in tuned with our purpose. Thank you Miss Cook and all these ladies- keep up the good work!
Posted on March 28, 2013
 
Inspiring! This is a great story.
Posted on March 28, 2013
 
I'm very proud of Carrie and her vision! She is an awesome individual with a self-less spirit!
Posted on March 28, 2013
 

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