Cool Girls with Tag: cool girl

Tasha Marie Gillum

Name: Tasha Marie Gillum
Age: 39
Location: Lynchburg, Va
Occupation: Bonner Leader Program Coordinator

Tasha Marie Gillum grew up being active and enjoying the terrain of Northern Virginia, but it took trying on – and selling – some different shoes to get her to the career in community enrichment and experiential education that she enjoys today.

After graduating from Sweet Briar College, Tasha had six months before she had to start paying back her student loans.

“I hiked the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia and then returned to my mother’s house and sold shoes at a large outdoor retailer for a few months,” she recalls.

After years of being involved with outdoor education at her alma-mater, and having had life-altering experiences in nature as a result, Tasha knew that selling shoes wasn’t where she wanted to wind up.

“Being stuck indoors all day talking about getting outside was not beneficial to my soul,” she says. “I knew I wanted to run a college outdoor program and provide transformative experiences for other women, just as I had experienced.”

She went to work for outdoor schools in Central Virginia and Colorado before she went for her graduate degree in experiential education. She ran outdoor programs at University of Las Vegas, worked as faculty at the Teton Science Schools in Wyoming, and finally returned to Lynchburg.

“It was almost a decade after I graduated that I returned to give back to the program that meant so much to me as a young woman,” Tasha says.

As a Bonner Leader Coordinator, Tasha works within the University of Lynchburg to recruit, train, supervise and assist Bonner Leaders within the curriculum and the community.

“The Bonner Foundation’s motto is “Access to Education, Opportunity to Serve,”’ Tasha explains. “The Bonner Leader Program at the University of Lynchburg provides an “opportunity to serve” by leveraging work-study funding to enable students to earn money for college through their community work with local non-profits.”

Nearly 65 colleges and universities across the country are a part of the Bonner Program, which serves to provide financial access to college while simultaneously forwarding civic engagement.

Schools with Bonner Leaders are required to have a minimum of 75% of the participating students qualifying for Federal Work Study. These schools have the option to award students with “College Work-Study” or some other private source for the student stipends.

These leaders dedicate their undergraduate careers to making an impact through service, may it be as a part of social justice community projects, local nonprofits, or other affiliated agencies. Over their four years of education, they become engaged in community service that dovetails with their academic and co-curricular learning. They do this throughout the academic and social rigamarole of the college experience, all while helping to meet the needs of the greater Lynchburg community. Their experiences culminate in a capstone project that they create with and for the community partner they have worked with throughout their education. Tasha works with these students helping them along the way as a mentor and supervisor.

“I enjoy watching a student lean into the opportunity to identify who they are, who they want to be, and what impact they want to create with their lives,” she says. “Bonners are enthusiastic about learning and leading meaningful community work, they’re open to having conversations and becoming agents of change.”

In the current COVID world, Tasha is connecting the new class of Bonner Leaders to the Lynchburg community through virtual community engagement experiences while maintaining the requisite social distancing.

“It’s wonky as all get out!” Tasha admits. “Our community vibe is not lost, but we’re finding creative ways to cultivate and sustain it in a different way this semester.”

What message does this mountain biking, trail running, student mentoring leader coordinator have for young women growing up in this disconnected and reconnected world?

Creating practices to listen to ourselves is the best direction we can receive. We are connected and intuitive beings. When you know, love and trust yourself, you’ve got all the answers you need to find direction.”

For her community engagement and connection to the Lynchburg Bonner Leader program, we think Tasha Marie Gillum is a very Cool Girl!

Learn more about the Bonner program at the links below!

Bonner Foundation

University of Lynchburg Bonner Program

Erica Wiley

Name: Erica Wiley
Age: 39
Location: San Jose, CA
Occupation: Prevention Education & Community Engagement Coordinator at YWCA Silicon Valley, Mother, Survivor

Erica Wiley is a survivor who uses her previous hardships to prevent harm to others. This mother and San Jose native works to educate young people about what healthy boundaries in relationships look like. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting them know that what they see in the movies isn’t real life.

“When I was a little girl I dreamt of being a famous dancer. Growing up in the 80’s I watched movies like Dirty Dancing, Grease, and anything with Molly Ringwald,” Erica remembers. “I also dreamt of the day I would be swept off my feet by “prince charming,” I thought at a young age that my end goal was to be married and have children, that by the age of 25 I should be happily married, living out the ‘American Dream.’”

Erica found her desire for a partner was deeply influenced by what she saw on TV. She yearned for a perfect partner while, in reality, like many other young people, she didn’t know what a healthy relationship actually looked like.

In 2017, Erica was 36 and a single mother of two. She had just extracted herself from a 4 year relationship that was plagued by abuse. She was hoping to heal and move on.

“The relationship was toxic from almost the very beginning, but I was so in love with the idea of being in love that I missed the warning signs,” she explains.

After leaving him, she discovered that the most dangerous part of leaving an abusive relationship sometimes occurs after the breakup. Things for Erica suddenly got worse.

“It began with non-stop harassing phone calls, texts, and emails. This went on for months, with no response from me in hopes the harassment would stop.”

But ignoring the onslaught only seemed to further inflame him. After distributing private photos and videos of Erica on social media, local law enforcement got involved. Her ex violated the restraining order within three days and he was arrested. After countless scheduled and rescheduled court appearances, Erica finally was able to get justice. A year and a half after his arrest date, her ex was found guilty.

“I tell my story because it was the most difficult time in my life, having to advocate for myself, feeling like there was a barrier around almost every corner. It’s not easy for a survivor of domestic violence to get the help or support they need. I had to advocate for myself every step of the way, with little to no help from the justice system,” she remembers.

With the support of her friends and family, she was able to get her life back. But she was dogged by the knowledge that there were other survivors out there who didn’t know where to turn. It was then that she began to volunteer at the YWCA Silicon Valley.

“YWCA is a nonprofit organization that supports survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking,” Erica explains. “My first experience with YWCA was volunteering at their 2017 Inspired Luncheon. Listening to the stories of other survivors of gender-based violence was truly inspiring. I registered for YWCA’s 65-hour sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking counselor training in spring 2018.”

From there, Erica’s activism took off. She was introduced to the Education and Outreach Team and began to teach young people about consent, healthy boundaries, body ownership, and how to safely intervene in harmful situations. By 2018 Erica had been hired as a Prevention Specialist in school-based programming for that same YWCA. She now oversees the domestic violence and sexual assault prevention for grades K-12 throughout Santa Clara County.

Today, Erica helps to support and empower survivors of gender-based violence, while also educating young people to stop violence before it starts.

“Though this job can be hard sometimes, if I can help one person not become a victim of gender-based violence, then I feel I’m doing something right,” she says.

And what advice does Erica have to young girls who are struggling to find their place in this world?

“You are important, you are worth it, and you are special. The secret to happiness is self-love, once you truly love yourself the possibilities are endless and happiness will find you.”

For her courage, strength, and compassion in action, we think Erica Wiley is a very Cool Girl!

Check out YWCA of Silicon Valley at https://ywca-sv.org/

Shalonda Menefee

Name: Shalonda Menefee
Age: 45
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: Homebuying Specialist and Entrepreneur

Artist, coach, and entrepreneur Shalonda Menefee cannot be easily confined to a single label. This community leader makes sure to channel her energy into many productive and inspiring avenues any chance she gets.

“I consider myself a creative “healing artist,”’ she explains. “I’m a certified Sacred Woman Practitioner, energy worker, empowerment coach, clothing designer, mystic and artist. I’m trying to find a name that encapsulates all of who I am as there really is no label for what I do,” she laughs.

It was through years of life experiences and struggles that sparked Shalonda to start SISTAS: SISTAS Initiating Strategies to Achieve Success. Working with her community, she hosts empowerment workshops and events that help other women grow and maximize their full potential.

“Shortly after high school, I became a young mother and a wife. I did not continue the path I had hoped for myself, and retreated to taking care of my family. I also carried  a little shame of having to drop out of college and losing my full scholarship all after being a Rose Festival Princess,” she explains.

It was only after she returned to college at 24, a divorced single mother of three, that she felt compelled to look for encouragement from those around her.

“I began to reach out to the community to find support in helping me regain my confidence and self-esteem as a black woman in Oregon, let alone a single black mother,” she says.

She found that, at that time, a sisterhood movement wasn’t available, so she created SISTAS as a place women of color could come and feel connected. This fostered a community that allowed women to lean on each other for resources, support, and encouragement.

Beginning in 2005, Shalonda began to hold SISTAS monthly gatherings where her friends would have dinner and share ideas. Over the years, it has expanded and shifted, with SISTAS holdingvarious workshops and events, providing business consulting and empowerment coaching, as well as crafting clothing and accessories. There is even a Back 2 Basics Youth program as well as the SISTAS Doll Workshops, and Shalonda is now working to achieve nonprofit status for SISTAS Empowerment Corp.

“SISTAS’s mission is creating an atmosphere of empowerment,” Shalonda explains. “It’s a movement that encourages and honors healing, individual expression, empowerment, and unapologetically embracing and honoring who we are inside and out, no matter our past and current circumstances.”

After several losses that weighed heavy on Shalonda’s emotionally, she decided to use her sewing machine to get her out of a depression. She took to creating and sewing cloth dolls and headwraps and accessories as a method of healing, and it was from that experience that the SISTAS doll workshops were born.

“I made my very first cloth doll in 2012, and that was so therapeutic I developed SISTAS Dolled Up workshops. This led into headwraps and accessories, which led me into making my first skirt. It was shortly after making the skirt my mother reminded me that I used to talk about being a clothing designer, and I’d sketch different types of clothes in high school. Life took me a different route, but now I’m back.”

Currently, Shalonda is working on an associated clothing line, called SHAMEN, which includes a New Normal 4 Now line of protective masks and accessories.

“As I began  to learn tools to heal and grow, I learned to tap into my inner power,” Shalonda recalls. “I wanted to make sure I created the things that I needed so that others could have resources and support. In Oregon, there is a small population of black people, and it is hard to feel safe and encouraged with so much institutionalized racism and prejudices. With so many barriers, it’s hard to really feel confident that you could be successful. But it’s also challenging to pursue something if you feel like you are alone.”

Today her sewing is being used to create masks and protective gear in light of the current pandemic, further proving that – like the community – the SISTAS enterprise is vast and adaptable.

What advice does this inspiring and passionate community leader have for young girls out there, growing up in these chaotic times?

“No matter what you have been through, know that you have survived, and you are stronger than the day before. Even the hardest experience we survive is a testimony of victory, and overcoming that will help someone else.”

“Always choose you first! Have a lot of fun learning about yourself,” she adds. “Always stay safe.”

Incredible advice! For her tireless work lifting up her community and helping others to heal and grow, we think Shalonda Menefee is an exceptional Cool Girl!

Follow along with Shalonda at any one of the links below!

Websites:
www.empoweredsistas.com
www.NewNormal4now.com
Coming Soon: www.shalondamenefee.com and www.tribeofshamen.com

FB:
@SISTASLLC
@SISTASVisiblyInvisible
@Newnormal4now

Instagram:
@tribeofShamen
#newnormal4now
@SISTASLLC
@queendomwear
@SISTASvisiblyinvisible

Nancy Marchant

Name: Nancy Marchant
Age: 37
Location: Raleigh, NC
Occupation: Subject Matter Expert, Math/Statistics

Statistician and mathematician Nancy Marchant designs ways for students to understand the intricacies of subjects that most people find challenging. As an educational technology maven, Nancy creates step-by-step textbook problem tutorials that can be found online so that students can hone their skills in areas that they are struggling with.

“Originally, I wrote code for math and stats textbooks so that students could do their homework online and get graded instantly. This involved solving the original problem given in the textbook and then adding code so that numbers could be changed around, but the problem-solving process would remain the same and not be harder if a different set of numbers were used in that same question.”

Now this “Graph Queen” codes and creates new ways for students to relate to math and statistics through educational technology, which is a pleasant off-shoot of her former job as a high-school math teacher.

“After a few months of being a math coder, I wished I had been able to use something similar while I was teaching. Grading takes a lot of time, and anything I can do to help free up time for teachers so they can do research, create new materials, or spend extra time with their students is worth me not being in the classroom. I miss being in the classroom, but enjoy being able to still be in the field of education,” Nancy explains.

When she was growing up, Nancy always loved computer lab games like Number Munchers, and was fascinated by geometry and trigonometry. It was her high school band teacher who motivated her to explore teaching as a career choice, but she found that the part of education that she loved – explaining how to do something – was nearly overwhelmed by the other aspects of the job.

“The non-teaching aspects that come along with this profession took more effort than I anticipated. It wasn’t enough that I had lesson plans and a rough idea for specific units, I had to have organization practices set in place for each class period I had, and then for each student within that class. There was definitely an “Oh…” moment upon realizing that not everyone loves math and that teaching was more than standing in front of a classroom full of students spouting off how to do math,” Nancy recalls. “It was a lot of work to create engaging and meaningful lesson plans so that students would want to put in the effort.”

But following budget cuts in the public school system, Nancy found herself looking for a job, and it was then that she applied for a temp position as a “math coder” to create those step-by-step accompaniments to textbook questions. There she discovered how to combine tech and math in a novel way.

“For some questions this meant coding graphs, which I developed a deep love for. It became a challenge to mimic the exact appearance of a graph or geometric figure in a textbook – not just the functions that were used (that’s easy), but using the exact same colors, down to the specific RGB color code,” she explains. “This has morphed into taking a mathematical approach of breaking down images into geometric shapes; think back to books on how to draw anything from elementary schools – everything is comprised of circles, ovals, and maybe a couple of lines here and there. A strawberry frosted doughnut with sprinkles is nothing more than a beige circle with a white circle in the center, a filled in pink polar curve, and a bunch of multicolored points.”’

Yum! Math!

These days, Nancy is learning that her profession is more necessary than ever, as the world adapts with the migration of in-class academics to learning remotely.

“I very much enjoy working in educational technology where I can help take some of the more tedious tasks off instructors’ desks, like grading and extra tutorials, and I would like to continue finding new ways to do this, especially now that teaching and learning online are becoming increasingly necessary,” Nancy says.

So what does this donut making mathematician have to say for girls who might be struggling with the subject?

“Don’t be afraid of math! Math is more than just playing with numbers and solving for x, it’s about learning to apply logical steps to solve a problem. It may take some extra time and practice to understand, but so does reading a long book. Math is a beautiful language that builds on itself.”

For her work creating online learning opportunities, and for injecting creativity into math and statistics, we think Nancy Marchant is a very Cool Girl!

Cool Girls!

We recently posted on social media asking for our followers to nominate someone they think is a Cool Girl. We typically feature one Cool Girl every month (see them here!), but we think if there ever was a time to showcase as many cool people as we can, it’s now. We get so much joy and hope from learning about you, the incredible humans in our lives, and want to spread that as much as we can.

Want to nominate your own Cool Girl? Fill out this form or email us at hello@sockittome.com!


Renae Saager

Renae Saager is certified health & life coach and emotional eating expert who teaches women around the world how to start living a powerful, authentic life free from food and weight obsession. Tapping into her own unique journey with disordered eating and alcoholism, Renae connects with her clients on a deeper level, supporting them through the process of rewiring their brain with her no-BS approach. Through this serious work, Renae is able to help clients challenge their mindset and begin healing, using her own sense of humor and unparalleled perspective which creates a more enjoyable and transformational experience.

Renae’s passion for helping other women burns strong. She knows the struggle of trying to conform to impossible and arbitrary societal standards, and is always inspired by the authenticity and vulnerability of the women she works with.

Renae’s advice for other girls?
Do not shrink yourself to make others comfortable.
Listen to that voice inside of you. Listen to what your gut is saying. And when you are so terrified you could cry but also so excited you could scream and doubting if you can even do it, you my friend, are on the right path! You will never be completely ready, know that. And the louder you are you (which may actually be quieter, if that is your style) the faster you find your people and your people find you.
Not everyone will like you or understand you and that is ok.
Keep being you.
Without apology.

Renae loves connecting over social media – find her here:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/renae.saager
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/renaesaager/
Website: https://renaesaager.com/
Podcast: Put Your Nuts Out There
Itunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/put-your-nuts-out-there/id1506966500
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/3lH6WccTIMroDlqqREVUJT 


Danielle Vincent

Let’s take a look at the nomination we received for Danielle Vincent, founder of Outlaw Soaps: “Not only is [Danielle] a certified badass, she wrote a great how-to, self help, find your inner unicorn book. Always working on something new and exciting. She is the person you need in your life without knowing it. She makes everything better. I’m better for knowing her & feel better knowing she’s out there.”

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind having Danielle in my corner. So of course we reached out to her to learn more about how she achieved the title of Certified Badass.

At Outlaw Soaps, Danielle and her husband make soap “for adventurous people, by adventurous people.” Starting the company itself was an adventure – everyone said it was crazy to start a small soap business. Soap was “weird” or the business was “too competitive” but Danielle saw an opening. She knew firsthand the magical ability of scented soap to remind us of our favorite things in life, from the beach you visited on your honeymoon to a good glass of whiskey to a sweet-scented pine forest.
(A side note from Danielle:
Pot roast does not make a good soap smell, no matter how much you like pot roast.)

Of course, running a small business is never easy even in the best of times, something Danielle is well aware of. She considers her employees to be extended family, so every day during this pandemic brings new concerns for the people she cares about. But the Outlaw Soaps team has pulled together and is working to ship out orders quickly and with maximum levity. No doubt Danielle’s positive demeanor, drive, and grit have influenced her team! They continue to provide their ethically made products to their loyal customers, and don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

Danielle’s advice for other girls?
Do your homework, set your prices, decide what your business really is, and be authentic. People don’t have to universally believe in your vision as long as you find your right customers, and you make it possible for them to find you (so, you know, search engine optimization, marketing, etc).
And pay attention to grammar and spelling.
If you want something, the secret to getting it is somewhere inside you.

You can find Outlaw soaps at their site here or on social media at:
Facebook: http://facebook.com/OutlawSoaps
Instagram: http://instagram.com/OutlawSoaps
Twitter: http://twitter.com/OutlawSoaps


Serena Zendejas

On a typical day, you can probably find Serena Zendejas rollerskating through her neighborhood or baking up a storm in the kitchen. Refusing to let this strange pandemic time get her down, Serena combined those two talents and started a delivery service of baked goods with her partner. She recognizes that the simple act of sharing treats and spreading love can go a long way.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that this philosophy carries through into her work: Serena works part-time at a residential facility for foster youth. She says, “I believe it’s my responsibility to use my privilege of education to give back to those who need it most.” No doubt the work she has done in her own life to battle self-doubt helps her be a beacon of hope and positivity for the youth she works with. “In my experience as a Hispanic woman, I have had to work hard to get at the same level as others. It’s easy to doubt yourself and tell yourself you aren’t good enough in a society that sees you that way,” says Serena. By spreading empowerment, positivity, and baked goods, Serena is helping those around her have a life map that is slightly less bumpy. It’s easier to skate that way.

Serena’s advice for other girls?
Stay true to you. I believe you should fight for what you believe in and always speak your mind.

You can find Serena on Instagram at @serenazendejas or follow her delivery service @baked.pdx!


Natalya Mortensen

Natalya Mortensen is only 13 years old and is already an inspiration to us here at Sock It to Me. After growing up in the Philippines, she moved to the US at age nine. She says remaining focused, diligent, and open to new adventures is her secret to starting over in a new country and a new school.

These qualities no doubt helped Natalya to remain upbeat and positive during the spine fusion surgery she had nine months ago. Of her surgery, Natalya says, “It was scary, but with patience and hard work, my recovery is amazing and I’m dancing again.” 

In her nomination, Natalya’s mother told us of Natalya’s resilience, positivity, and passion for life. It’s evident that Natalya won’t even let spinal surgery get in her way: she continues to dance ballet, win art contests, and act as a beam of light for her family.

Natalya’s advice for other girls?
Do your best with all honesty!

You can find Natalya on Instagram: @breemortensen