History of the Organization
M.E.A.N. Girls Empowerment’s founder, Shatina Edwards, was inspired to speak out against bullying by her personal experience of being bullied by her peers during middle-school. She wanted to create an engaging program that empowers young girls to avoid negativity and speak out against bullying in their own lives. Shatina researched the reasons why bullying was prevalent among girls as well as the adverse impact it was having on their development into teens and young adults. For two years, Shatina partnered with the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana to observe young girls in their peer groups both at school and at extracurricular activities. She learned how to identify the different “bully profiles'' such as girls who lacked parental attention and guidance, girls who felt powerful through bullying, girls who sought popularity, and girls who were naturally assertive and dominant, but unaware of their bullying behavior. Shatina created a motto, “avoid negativity and embrace creativity,” which she has since enfolded into her programming and curriculum and which serves as a constant reminder to the girls that they should analyze, use creative thinking, and build self-confidence as they confront all aspects of bullying. Through Shatina’s success in developing a program with a proven record of positive impact on hundreds of girls, she has created a girl-friendly safe space and network.
In 2014, when M.E.A.N. Girls Empowerment first launched, it welcomed five girls who were eager to learn how to identify the causes of bullying and mean girl behavior and how to avoid negativity associated with it. Shatina developed a custom curriculum that concentrates on communication, decision-making, self-esteem, and leadership skills that encourages girls to make sound decisions. Through individual progress assessment and remarkable outcomes, Shatina is confident her curriculum and program design is achieving its intended impact. To date, more than 1000 girls have benefitted from M.E.A.N. Girls Empowerment’s programs. Our survey feedback from their parents and other leaders (teachers, coaches, mentors, etc.) reveals that each girl has learned a great deal about how to avoid negativity and embrace creativity.
M.E.A.N. Girls Empowerment specifically identifies girls who reside in Chicago’s disadvantaged neighborhoods or high-risk communities that are typically plagued by violence, unemployment, chaos, and lack parental guidance, all of which adds pressure or trauma to the daily lives of each young girl. Most of the girls lack appropriate support and resources to manage it so having a positive, welcoming, and supportive space and mentorship nearby will help reverse the course of traumatic influences and guide these girls into becoming leaders in their own families and communities.