Parents, look no further for a way to empower and encourage your young princesses to develop into beautiful queens! The non-profit organization, Girls On the Glow, is welcoming girls ages 6-16 to its free empowerment camp.
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Visionary Vanessa Whitley co-founded Girls On the Glow with her daughter, Jasha Whitley, in 2017. These two women hit the ground running swiftly, and are making an astounding impact on the Birmingham community, from young girls to their parents alike.
Vanessa and Jasha initially started by chaperoning girls to live experiences at museums and events, supervising their etiquette, proper hygiene, and respect towards others.
To this effort, Vanessa and Jasha aim to provide their programs to what they endear as “precious gifts” across the city — girls from all ethnic races and backgrounds in need of support as they grow into young women.
Birmingham On the Cheap had the pleasure of sitting down with these two hidden jewels to learn how they’re shining their light in the darkness to help those who are often left behind.
Ms. Vanessa, what was the driving force behind why Girls On the Glow began?
I’ve been a Cosmetology educator for over 20 years. While employed at a particular beauty school in Atlanta, I would come across teenage girls and women close to my age who were lacking in certain areas.
It took someone else to tell them, “Look, if you change your attitude, you would be fine,” or “If you know how to just be kind to people, you would be fine.”
I saw the need to impart to these girls simple things no one ever told them. So that really started the vision.
A lot of girls in the school knew exactly how to do hair, but didn’t know how to talk to people. And then there were some girls who knew how to talk to people, but didn’t know how to fix themselves up.
So there were just certain things that these girls were missing.
My daughter and I were on the phone talking one day in 2017, and I was like, we should start an organization. And the vision came from God, I’m just going to be honest, it came straight from God.
A split second later, we decided on the name. It was snowing this particular day, and I remember that I was like, I’ve got to move with urgency.
So when we hung up the phone, I went and had shirts made, and I had a lot of blessings on the way.
He (God) gave me discounts and everything, but our foundation focuses on building confidence, gaining empowerment, and finding your purpose in life, which doesn’t have to be hair. It can be anything.
But if you lack these three things in life, it’s going to be rough for you!
So me and my daughter, we decided we would focus on girls aged 6 through 16. We can mold them as young girls and help them become productive teenagers and then amazing women.
I had no idea that this was a mother-daughter duo, so this is even more exciting! There’s very little talk in our community about building a legacy, right? But the two of you are working this vision together, and now you’re impacting these young ladies at such a young age. Jasha, talk about how seeing your mother, from how she raised you, to now taking the lead and touching other young ladies’ lives. How did this impact you?
It impacted me a whole lot because I had my first child when I was 20. I was so happy and excited about it because that was something I always wanted to do.
I always wanted to work with young girls and tell them, go to school, get an education, do what you’re supposed to do in life. Follow your goals, chase your dreams.
I was so excited when my mama said that, I was like, let’s do it! Let’s go with the name, let’s go with pink and blue!
It made me feel so good that we could impact different girls, different families, and their mothers, because the parents love it more than the kids love it.
It was a blessing from God how God just moved us. The parents were bringing the girls, and we had help.
It was so exciting and so heartwarming, and just made me feel good as an individual, and it made me feel good about my momma. We came into people’s lives trying to help.
There aren’t many things out here for free, especially for girls. You have sports, but you don’t have anything for girls telling them when you wake up in the morning, comb your hair, brush your teeth, watch your hygiene, so I’m excited about it!
Nonprofits don’t operate without funding. In the beginning, what were some of the challenges the both of you had to overcome to see this vision through?
There were some challenges, but I was an educator teaching adults. I told the women about my vision, and they caught on.
I also had a salon, so I told my workers and my customers about the vision, and they gave (money). They gave, they gave, they gave!
So, the challenge was never money. Even in the beginning, one of my former employees began working for UPS. She referred our organization for a UPS grant, and so our first year, we got like $8,000.
For me it was a fear. I had fear of the girls not showing up, fear of what I was going to do if they didn’t come.
How many people are going to receive this as a blessing, because it was a blessing! But after that first meeting, there was no fear because we had tons and tons of girls!
But, it was fear for me. However, God had people at every angle, and that broke the fear.
What about you, Jasha? What were some of the fears, were they the same?
I really didn’t have any fear, because I knew that God was going to make it happen. I just saw the vision, and when I and my momma were talking about it, I just felt it in my heart.
The only challenge I had was that my mama stayed in Georgia, and I stayed in Birmingham, and I had to drive over there. But I was excited, and I was confident.
I was ready, and I knew that God was going to do exceedingly above. I knew that He was going to bless us, and keep connecting us to the right families, and people that really needed us.
And a man can’t tell a girl how to be a girl. He can’t tell her, “Go on in there and comb your hair!”
We have girl/women problems, and a man just can’t explain that.
I was just excited about it, I was just ready to go. So the only challenge I had was long-distance as I was in Birmingham, and she was in Georgia.
What are your greatest needs for the organization? What can really support you and take your organization to the next level?
Our greatest need right now is a building. It doesn’t have to be a big building, it can be an old house, it can be a box!
It just needs to be a location that we can go in and fix it up like we want to, and make it comfortable for the girls to wow them when they come in.
And with a building comes the need for more financing. When we first started I had my own salon, so that was a building we had of our own.
When I moved to Birmingham, we had to rent the facility. But if we personally have our own building, we could have more time with the girls, and even do after-school programs.
With our own building, we may have girls, or even women in need, who need to be housed. They may need to break away from whatever situation they’re in, and we can get them the help they need for the situation they’re in. So, a building is the number one thing we need.
We also need a grant writer. It was the grace of God that we got that (UPS) grant, so we do need a grant writer. We need public relations, people to help us get the word out.
(Jasha) A van.
(Vanessa) A van! Definitely a van. Because some of the girls’ parents don’t have cars. We need a van!
When did you all come up with the vision for the camp? Was it always the focus of the organization, or did it launch separately after you started the organization?
As a child, I always wanted to do camps, but my mom never had any money.
When we started, we began in the salon, or we took them to hair shows, took them to colleges, took them to plays, and different educational events.
When I came back home to Birmingham, I had a desire to do the camp.
After the pandemic, I really had the opportunity and the funds to go ahead and do the camp. So that’s how the camp came about.
Jasha, talk to the parent who has yet to hear about your organization and really has a need for your services.
This program is great! It builds confidence in your daughter, and your daughter can gain empowerment and find her purpose.
She can develop personal gains for herself, she can learn how to get up and start her day and make herself look good without momma having to repeat herself over and over again.
She can meet other girls and become friends. They’re amongst their peers, so they can teach others as we talk about various things that go on in school.
We talk about bullying, we talk about having respect, and we talk about having self-love. We just pour into your daughter and talk about things they will need in life, even at such a young age.
I love it, and my mom loves it. As I said, the parents whose daughters are involved love it more than the girls.
Just bring your daughter, I promise, you won’t be disappointed. You will be satisfied and will just want to keep bringing her, and bringing her.
What success stories do you have from the girls who have come through your program?
We currently have two girls we completed recommendations for who have gone on to college, and one is about to graduate.
(Jasha) One success took place at a meeting in Georgia.
A couple of them were talking about bullying problems they were having at school. We gave the girls some tips, such as ignoring the person and going to tell someone.
The girls were so excited about those tips, and when they came back, they shared how they had overcome bullying. Just believing what God says you are, and not what somebody else says you are.
They learn respect for themselves and how to love others. We have that type of success where they learn how to handle and get through different situations.
How can the Birmingham community reach out to you and register their girls for your empowerment and personal development camp?
Parents can register their girls on our website at www.girlsontheglow.org. We are on Facebook at www.facebook.com/girlson.theglow/, Instagram at www.instagram.com/_girlsontheglow/ and Twitter at www.twitter.com/Girlsontheglow1.
After the camp every Saturday in June, our camps will be ongoing every month. When we get the building, there will be more days we can do it!
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