Last year’s Girls Can Change the World: Be Inspired event by the Girls Coalition brought so many inspiring local stories forward that the entire 2014 event features girls and young women from the region.

The 2013 event was headlined by several girls from Maine whose activism started at an extraordinary young age. This year, the program on May 31 will feature a whole morning of local young activists, artists and entrepreneurs “who are leading the most amazing efforts,” says Heather Mediate, head of the organization. “By them sharing their stories, it not only helps adults and providers get an idea of how girls are thinking in the area, but it inspires girls in the audience to do something amazing.”

Vanessa German will open the event with the story of how she started Love Front Porch, her arts hub for kids in Homewood, to counter the violent image of the neighborhood and give local kids a constructive gathering place. The morning will feature:

  • Naoka Gunawardena of The Ellis School, who champions STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) for girls as a leader of the Girls of Steel all-girls FIRST robotics Lego League team.
  • Julia Wolf, a freshman at Hampton High School, who competes as part of her high-school swimming and lacrosse varsity teams and is the only girl at Hampton to play the double bass. She was one of three girls invited to greet delegates and attendees at the United Nations for Girls Speak Out on International Day of the Girl last October.
  • Eliza Jimenez, a senior at The Ellis School, who created a service project in her junior year to collect shoes for the Children’s Village in Karmiel, Israel, which houses 300 foster kids in extended families, and where Jimenez helps to counsel the kids during an extended summer visit. She undertook the shoe collection effort as part of the local Classrooms Without Borders, which supports Pittsburgh teachers to travel to Israel, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic and bring back first-hand experience to create Israel Studies and Holocaust Studies programs in their schools.
  • 3TG (3 Talented Girlz) are Bryce Ari Chisom and Amani Jai Chisom of Pittsburgh Obama and Summer Helvy of Pittsburgh Schiller, who use music to bring other kids together in a program that has resulted in the group being invited to sing the national anthem at a City Council swearing-in ceremony and winning WAMO 100’s Local Love Talent Show.
  • Lani Lazzari, now 20, who founded Simple Sugars, her natural body-care company, in 2005, when she was only 11. Begun in her parents’ basement, the company makes all-natural scrubs.
  • Dynae Shaw, now a Clarion University sophomore, is a graduate of Pittsburgh Obama and a member of Teen Bloc, a youth organizing initiative of A+ Schools and other local groups. In 2012, she gave a speech at the Clinton Global Initiative dinner, which focused on youth empowerment and equity in education.

“Asking someone for help is what everyone forgets to do,” advises Mediate. “I hope girls who attend this will walk away feeling like they can do something amazing without having to have unlimited resources at their disposal, without having to have some crazy idea, without having to partner with someone on a national basis.”

To register for the event, click here.

Marty Levine

Marty Levine's journalism has appeared in Time, Salon.com and throughout Pennsylvania and has won awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, The Press...