EmpowerHer: GITK Blog

June Blog Post 

Empowered Women in STEM:
Bridging Gaps and Building Futures

STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, encompasses fields often surrounded by stereotypes that can discourage girls from pursuing these careers.  

My name is Amaya Wiekerson, a Computer Science major at Washington University of St. Louis with a minor in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). I am passionate about advocacy work, and I aspire to have a direct impact on individuals. As an intern at Girls in the Know (GITK) I have been provided valuable work that allows me to directly impact the education available to girls about their bodies, their safety, and their health.  

When people hear terms like “engineer,” “STEM,” or “science,” they might picture someone who is technically skilled, but lacks creativity or social abilities. However, this is a misconception far from the truth. Engineering and other STEM fields require a blend of technical expertise, creativity, emotional intelligence, and social skills. GITK provides the support and resources needed to help girls develop these skills and break down these harmful stereotypes. 

Studying both Computer Science and WGSS has helped me discover more about myself as a Black woman in Engineering; as well as what it means to be a woman studying Computer Science. This understanding is crucial for any woman pursuing a STEM career, and it’s something GITK is passionate about fostering in young women. Through our Empowerment Workshop, GITK builds confidence in young girls’ ability to follow their dreams, allowing them to grasp a better sense of self and confidence in who they are.  

A colleague of mine, and fellow STEM major and GITK intern, Sam Battaglia, shared with me her experience as a woman pursuing a degree in Biology:  

Sam Battaglia, B.S. of Science in Biology and Environmental Science, MPH/MSW Candidate: 

“When I was paired with different lab partners, my measurements and calculations were double-checked. They would say ‘just to make sure we do it right.’”  

Sam also faced skepticism about her choice to pursue Biology.  

“Constantly being questioned in my field of study if I was “sure” about science was a norm for me during Undergrad.” 

By sharing these experiences, we can better understand the challenges women face in STEM and work towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment. Empowering women in these fields is not just about breaking stigmas but also about recognizing the diverse strengths and perspectives they bring to the table. Together, we can redefine what it means to be a scientist, engineer, or technologist, by embracing creativity, empathy, and collaboration as essential components of success in STEM. 

Girls in the Know is working towards changing the narrative and changing it whole-heartedly, because there is space for women at every table.  

Never be ashamed of who you are or who you want to be. Own it and own it proudly.  

Amaya Wiekerson,
B.S Computer Science & GITK Program Intern
Sam Battaglia,
B.S. of Science in Biology and Environmental Science, MPH/MSW Candidate & GITK Program Intern

May Blog Post

Dr. Stacy Peebles in Cultivating Self-Care

April showers bring May flowers—or so the saying goes. And there sure wouldn’t be any rainbows without the rain first. As we navigate through life’s hurricanes and hiccups, let us nurture the seeds we plant and cultivate the flowers we blossom into.

I’m Dr. Stacy Peebles, and I am very honored to be a part of the Girls in the Know team. I conduct the empowerment session, the first session of the 4-part Empowerment Workshop series and believe that a strong sense of self and self-empowerment plays a huge role in preparing our community of girls for a successful future. 

In light of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, I’m eager to share with you some mental health well-being maintenance tips, drawing on my expertise as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and educational background in social work and public policy. 

My days are spent helping clients navigate difficult situations and being a guide towards making positive changes in their current situations. What I often find in women and girls, is the idea that they need to strive for perfection. I believe one of the first steps to maintaining mental well-being is to create realistic goals for oneself. To let go of what others may think of you and embrace the idea that not every day is going to be perfect. Show yourself some grace!

Another focus I encourage is self-preservation. Put yourself first! The ability to be present for others or to serve as a support system starts with how you feel. Make yourself a priority. Take time off when necessary. Treat yourself to a pedicure or read a book. Remember, there is nothing selfish about self-care. 

In this lifetime, you will inevitably face burnout, exhaustion, or overwhelming circumstances. Your resilience in overcoming these challenges depends on your mental well-being. Prioritize self-care and ensure you are mentally sound, and never forget “I Am Enough!”

Dr. Stacy Peebles
Licensed Clinical Social Worker & GITK Expert Speaker

April Blog Post

Lori Lander: GITK Rooted in Empowerment & Growth

At one time or another, I’m sure any adult can attest to the reluctancy of “growing up.” Accepting change, navigating challenges, and experiencing things for the first time can be overwhelming. At Girls in the Know (GITK), we strive to eliminate some of the fears and unknowns that come with maturing, specifically within those pre-teen and teen years. By combining empowerment and education, we aim to simplify those ‘first times,’ making them more manageable as well as less intimidating through clarity and understanding.

My name is Lori Lander, and I am the founder of GITK. As we embark on the remarkable milestone that year 15 brings, I’m excited to share with you a reflection of growth and challenges that GITK has seen and surpassed!

The inspiration to create this organization, and ultimately the programs we provide, began as a deep-rooted personal endeavor to ensure my oldest daughter’s “readiness” to navigate her teenage years with confidence and self-worth. As my daughter reached the age of 10, I found myself grappling with the rapid pace at which our world was evolving. As a parent, I needed to provide her with the tools, knowledge, and support necessary to take on a world vastly different from the one I grew up in.

This desire to share with my daughter the necessary tools to conquer her next stage of life wasn’t individual; I found many other parents shared these same feelings, and it became evident that there was an undeniable need for a program that addresses topics important to a young girl’s development. Topics such as self-esteem, body image, healthy relationships, internet and home safety and puberty. This initiative stems from a place of love, concern, and a desire to empower not just my daughter, but girls across our community, fostering a sense of resilience and self-worth that transcends the uncertainties of teenage years.

Initially, we struggled to gain traction and recognition within the community, relying primarily on our personal networks to build momentum. But through collaborations with local schools, businesses, and organizations, as well as careful planning with stakeholders, we gradually have been able to develop and grow Girls in the Know over the past 15 years. I am most proud that we are an organization that embraces change and evolution. I’ve witnessed GITK expand its offerings in response to the evolving and diverse needs of our community and the girls we serve. From humble beginnings as a pilot workshop at St. Luke’s Hospital, to a comprehensive empowerment program encompassing diversity, GITK has continually evolved to meet the ever-changing landscape of adolescence.

Lori Lander
Founder of GITK

March Blog Post

Dr. CeCe Wolfner’s Insight On Making an Impact with GITK

At Girls in the Know (GITK), witnessing the journey of girls progressing through our program has been truly inspiring. One of the initial observations I made was their genuine excitement and those unmistakable “light bulb” moments. You can almost feel the energy shift when a girl experiences that ‘ah-ha!’ moment—where suddenly, everything clicks into place. It’s in these moments we can recognize the impact that the program has on the girls, speakers, and community alike inside and out.

I’m Dr. CeCe Wolfner, and I am the Program Impact Coordinator at GITK. Although my connection to GITK only extends to November of 2023, I’d like to think there were invisible strings tying me to this organization. About a year prior to my exposure to GITK, I had written on a massive poster board in my room, “I am Enough. Who I am is enough. What I have is enough. What I do is enough.” To have this opportunity to work for GITK, whose pledge is those words exactly, further affirms my excitement to be able to help these girls find their voices, gain confidence, and positively impact each other and the world.

As someone who is very open about having disabilities and my own struggles with mental health, my ‘ah-ha’ moment came during my journey learning about and then dismantling the stigma I had internalized. Being told not to tell anyone about my conditions; that it was something to hide, tends to be the common false narrative in society. Due to others’ misperception of mental health struggles being a sign of weakness, applying for graduate school played a huge role in my own views of myself. Towards the end of my schooling, I reached my ‘lightbulb’ conclusion that “wait a second, this isn’t right.” Embracing your condition, understanding your treatment options, finding support, and educating yourself and those around you can make a huge difference. I should never feel shame for these parts of me, the parts that make me, well me! No one should. It is important to normalize conversations surrounding mental health so people can feel empowered to seek the help they need. From that point on, I wanted everyone to experience this same realization: different doesn’t mean less. You are worthy and more than enough, and those who think you are too much, can go find less.

I am more than excited to utilize these experiences to make a positive difference in the way people view themselves, their community, their abilities, and overall well-being. I am committed to supporting the organization’s mission of empowering young girls by ensuring the effective delivery and evaluation of programs, as well as supporting marketing efforts to communicate program impact. Leveraging my background in data analytics and evaluation, in addition to our refined curriculum, my goal is to ensure our evaluation techniques, best reflect our intended outcomes, so we can use feedback from the girls to continuously fine-tune our offerings. By leaning into the feedback, we have received from current and past GITK participants, our “4 part Empowerment Workshop Series” can continue this trek of development within the curriculum. This way, we can make sure we’re giving the girls exactly what they need to thrive! 

The revision of the Empowerment Workshop series, specifically the first part of the series, features a broader section on mental health. Girls will learn to better connect with themselves and their inner dialogue through discussing how their body responds to stress, and how to identify these emotions. The latest resource, which we call the “Feelings Chart”, encourages advancements in such emotional regulation skills. Interactive activities and role-playing exercises are popular amongst participating girls because they get to apply new concepts to real world scenarios. They are educational but also enjoyable, allowing them to see things from a different perspective and expand their understanding.

GITK strives to provide a proper intervention during pivotal trials by creating supportive environments that provide tools and resources to help them navigate physical, emotional, and social development. Our focus on empowerment encompasses advocating for oneself and others, speaking up against injustice, and actively contributing to positive change in one’s community. It’s the deep-rooted understanding of who you are as a person and continue to strive to be without letting anyone else question the trust and love you have established with yourself.

CeCe Wolfner, PhD
Program Impact Coordinator

February Blog Post

Devon Lambur & Body Image

I often wonder when we stop scrutinizing ourselves in the mirror, questioning the reflection that stares back at us. When do we finally conquer the fear of comparison? It appears insecurities know no age limit, lingering persistently throughout our lives. Yet, through fostering a positive body image, self-confidence, and a sense of community, we have the power to create a world that nurtures more inclusive and supportive spaces for all women. 

This year marks a significant milestone for Girls in the Know (GITK) as we celebrate 15 years of dedication to empowering the next generation of girls. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this celebration, reflecting on our journey and the incredible impact our team has had on empowering girls in our community.  

My name is Devon Lambur, and I am a registered dietitian and fitness professional who joined GITK two years ago. I earned my master’s in human sciences and health communication from Fontbonne University, right here in the heart of St. Louis. Educating girls through our “Promoting a Healthy Body Image” session has been an honor, leaning on my expertise and passion for building up girl’s health. 

With over a decade of experience in community health education, I understand the significance of addressing societal and social media pressures on girls’ body image. Through my experiences teaching body curriculum in schools, I have witnessed the challenges girls face in transitioning from childhood to adolescence. Especially when social media enters the picture, it can be hard at first to iterate the concept of body image. I deeply appreciate the importance of promoting self-love and body positivity during this pivotal time in a young girl’s life.  

The GITK “Promoting a Healthy Body Image” session, an arm in our 4-part Empowerment Workshop Series, is essential because it helps to plant the seed of empowering girls in our community to love and respect their bodies. The session dives into understanding the balance between internal and external characteristics, the power of positive self-talk, and the significant influence of media on body image. I firmly believe that every girl is unique and deserving of celebration, and it’s vital to remind them of that. 

 

Devon is a registered dietitian and fitness professional with over 12 years combined experience, currently working as a dietitian at BJC HealthCare and as a head coach at Orangetheory Fitness. She earned her Master’s in Human Sciences and Health Communication from Fontbonne University.

Devon Lambur, MA, RD, LD

June Blog Post 

Empowered Women in STEM:
Bridging Gaps and Building Futures

STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, encompasses fields often surrounded by stereotypes that can discourage girls from pursuing these careers.  

My name is Amaya Wiekerson, a Computer Science major at Washington University of St. Louis with a minor in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). I am passionate about advocacy work, and I aspire to have a direct impact on individuals. As an intern at Girls in the Know (GITK) I have been provided valuable work that allows me to directly impact the education available to girls about their bodies, their safety, and their health.  

When people hear terms like “engineer,” “STEM,” or “science,” they might picture someone who is technically skilled, but lacks creativity or social abilities. However, this is a misconception far from the truth. Engineering and other STEM fields require a blend of technical expertise, creativity, emotional intelligence, and social skills. GITK provides the support and resources needed to help girls develop these skills and break down these harmful stereotypes. 

Studying both Computer Science and WGSS has helped me discover more about myself as a Black woman in Engineering; as well as what it means to be a woman studying Computer Science. This understanding is crucial for any woman pursuing a STEM career, and it’s something GITK is passionate about fostering in young women. Through our Empowerment Workshop, GITK builds confidence in young girls’ ability to follow their dreams, allowing them to grasp a better sense of self and confidence in who they are.  

A colleague of mine, and fellow STEM major and GITK intern, Sam Battaglia, shared with me her experience as a woman pursuing a degree in Biology:  

Sam Battaglia, B.S. of Science in Biology and Environmental Science, MPH/MSW Candidate: 

“When I was paired with different lab partners, my measurements and calculations were double-checked. They would say ‘just to make sure we do it right.’”  

Sam also faced skepticism about her choice to pursue Biology.  

“Constantly being questioned in my field of study if I was “sure” about science was a norm for me during Undergrad.” 

By sharing these experiences, we can better understand the challenges women face in STEM and work towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment. Empowering women in these fields is not just about breaking stigmas but also about recognizing the diverse strengths and perspectives they bring to the table. Together, we can redefine what it means to be a scientist, engineer, or technologist, by embracing creativity, empathy, and collaboration as essential components of success in STEM. 

Girls in the Know is working towards changing the narrative and changing it whole-heartedly, because there is space for women at every table.  

Never be ashamed of who you are or who you want to be. Own it and own it proudly.  

Amaya Wiekerson,
B.S Computer Science & GITK Program Intern
Sam Battaglia,
B.S. of Science in Biology and Environmental Science, MPH/MSW Candidate & GITK Program Intern

May Blog Post

Dr. Stacy Peebles in Cultivating Self-Care

April showers bring May flowers—or so the saying goes. And there sure wouldn’t be any rainbows without the rain first. As we navigate through life’s hurricanes and hiccups, let us nurture the seeds we plant and cultivate the flowers we blossom into.

I’m Dr. Stacy Peebles, and I am very honored to be a part of the Girls in the Know team. I conduct the empowerment session, the first session of the 4-part Empowerment Workshop series and believe that a strong sense of self and self-empowerment plays a huge role in preparing our community of girls for a successful future. 

In light of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, I’m eager to share with you some mental health well-being maintenance tips, drawing on my expertise as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and educational background in social work and public policy. 

My days are spent helping clients navigate difficult situations and being a guide towards making positive changes in their current situations. What I often find in women and girls, is the idea that they need to strive for perfection. I believe one of the first steps to maintaining mental well-being is to create realistic goals for oneself. To let go of what others may think of you and embrace the idea that not every day is going to be perfect. Show yourself some grace!

Another focus I encourage is self-preservation. Put yourself first! The ability to be present for others or to serve as a support system starts with how you feel. Make yourself a priority. Take time off when necessary. Treat yourself to a pedicure or read a book. Remember, there is nothing selfish about self-care. 

In this lifetime, you will inevitably face burnout, exhaustion, or overwhelming circumstances. Your resilience in overcoming these challenges depends on your mental well-being. Prioritize self-care and ensure you are mentally sound, and never forget “I Am Enough!”

Dr. Stacy Peebles
Licensed Clinical Social Worker & GITK Expert Speaker

April Blog Post

Lori Lander: GITK Rooted in Empowerment & Growth

At one time or another, I’m sure any adult can attest to the reluctancy of “growing up.” Accepting change, navigating challenges, and experiencing things for the first time can be overwhelming. At Girls in the Know (GITK), we strive to eliminate some of the fears and unknowns that come with maturing, specifically within those pre-teen and teen years. By combining empowerment and education, we aim to simplify those ‘first times,’ making them more manageable as well as less intimidating through clarity and understanding.

My name is Lori Lander, and I am the founder of GITK. As we embark on the remarkable milestone that year 15 brings, I’m excited to share with you a reflection of growth and challenges that GITK has seen and surpassed!

The inspiration to create this organization, and ultimately the programs we provide, began as a deep-rooted personal endeavor to ensure my oldest daughter’s “readiness” to navigate her teenage years with confidence and self-worth. As my daughter reached the age of 10, I found myself grappling with the rapid pace at which our world was evolving. As a parent, I needed to provide her with the tools, knowledge, and support necessary to take on a world vastly different from the one I grew up in.

This desire to share with my daughter the necessary tools to conquer her next stage of life wasn’t individual; I found many other parents shared these same feelings, and it became evident that there was an undeniable need for a program that addresses topics important to a young girl’s development. Topics such as self-esteem, body image, healthy relationships, internet and home safety and puberty. This initiative stems from a place of love, concern, and a desire to empower not just my daughter, but girls across our community, fostering a sense of resilience and self-worth that transcends the uncertainties of teenage years.

Initially, we struggled to gain traction and recognition within the community, relying primarily on our personal networks to build momentum. But through collaborations with local schools, businesses, and organizations, as well as careful planning with stakeholders, we gradually have been able to develop and grow Girls in the Know over the past 15 years. I am most proud that we are an organization that embraces change and evolution. I’ve witnessed GITK expand its offerings in response to the evolving and diverse needs of our community and the girls we serve. From humble beginnings as a pilot workshop at St. Luke’s Hospital, to a comprehensive empowerment program encompassing diversity, GITK has continually evolved to meet the ever-changing landscape of adolescence.

Lori Lander
Founder of GITK

March Blog Post

Dr. CeCe Wolfner’s Insight On Making an Impact with GITK

At Girls in the Know (GITK), witnessing the journey of girls progressing through our program has been truly inspiring. One of the initial observations I made was their genuine excitement and those unmistakable “light bulb” moments. You can almost feel the energy shift when a girl experiences that ‘ah-ha!’ moment—where suddenly, everything clicks into place. It’s in these moments we can recognize the impact that the program has on the girls, speakers, and community alike inside and out.

I’m Dr. CeCe Wolfner, and I am the Program Impact Coordinator at GITK. Although my connection to GITK only extends to November of 2023, I’d like to think there were invisible strings tying me to this organization. About a year prior to my exposure to GITK, I had written on a massive poster board in my room, “I am Enough. Who I am is enough. What I have is enough. What I do is enough.” To have this opportunity to work for GITK, whose pledge is those words exactly, further affirms my excitement to be able to help these girls find their voices, gain confidence, and positively impact each other and the world.

As someone who is very open about having disabilities and my own struggles with mental health, my ‘ah-ha’ moment came during my journey learning about and then dismantling the stigma I had internalized. Being told not to tell anyone about my conditions; that it was something to hide, tends to be the common false narrative in society. Due to others’ misperception of mental health struggles being a sign of weakness, applying for graduate school played a huge role in my own views of myself. Towards the end of my schooling, I reached my ‘lightbulb’ conclusion that “wait a second, this isn’t right.” Embracing your condition, understanding your treatment options, finding support, and educating yourself and those around you can make a huge difference. I should never feel shame for these parts of me, the parts that make me, well me! No one should. It is important to normalize conversations surrounding mental health so people can feel empowered to seek the help they need. From that point on, I wanted everyone to experience this same realization: different doesn’t mean less. You are worthy and more than enough, and those who think you are too much, can go find less.

I am more than excited to utilize these experiences to make a positive difference in the way people view themselves, their community, their abilities, and overall well-being. I am committed to supporting the organization’s mission of empowering young girls by ensuring the effective delivery and evaluation of programs, as well as supporting marketing efforts to communicate program impact. Leveraging my background in data analytics and evaluation, in addition to our refined curriculum, my goal is to ensure our evaluation techniques, best reflect our intended outcomes, so we can use feedback from the girls to continuously fine-tune our offerings. By leaning into the feedback, we have received from current and past GITK participants, our “4 part Empowerment Workshop Series” can continue this trek of development within the curriculum. This way, we can make sure we’re giving the girls exactly what they need to thrive! 

The revision of the Empowerment Workshop series, specifically the first part of the series, features a broader section on mental health. Girls will learn to better connect with themselves and their inner dialogue through discussing how their body responds to stress, and how to identify these emotions. The latest resource, which we call the “Feelings Chart”, encourages advancements in such emotional regulation skills. Interactive activities and role-playing exercises are popular amongst participating girls because they get to apply new concepts to real world scenarios. They are educational but also enjoyable, allowing them to see things from a different perspective and expand their understanding.

GITK strives to provide a proper intervention during pivotal trials by creating supportive environments that provide tools and resources to help them navigate physical, emotional, and social development. Our focus on empowerment encompasses advocating for oneself and others, speaking up against injustice, and actively contributing to positive change in one’s community. It’s the deep-rooted understanding of who you are as a person and continue to strive to be without letting anyone else question the trust and love you have established with yourself.

CeCe Wolfner, PhD
Program Impact Coordinator

February Blog Post

Devon Lambur & Body Image

I often wonder when we stop scrutinizing ourselves in the mirror, questioning the reflection that stares back at us. When do we finally conquer the fear of comparison? It appears insecurities know no age limit, lingering persistently throughout our lives. Yet, through fostering a positive body image, self-confidence, and a sense of community, we have the power to create a world that nurtures more inclusive and supportive spaces for all women. 

This year marks a significant milestone for Girls in the Know (GITK) as we celebrate 15 years of dedication to empowering the next generation of girls. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this celebration, reflecting on our journey and the incredible impact our team has had on empowering girls in our community.  

My name is Devon Lambur, and I am a registered dietitian and fitness professional who joined GITK two years ago. I earned my master’s in human sciences and health communication from Fontbonne University, right here in the heart of St. Louis. Educating girls through our “Promoting a Healthy Body Image” session has been an honor, leaning on my expertise and passion for building up girl’s health. 

With over a decade of experience in community health education, I understand the significance of addressing societal and social media pressures on girls’ body image. Through my experiences teaching body curriculum in schools, I have witnessed the challenges girls face in transitioning from childhood to adolescence. Especially when social media enters the picture, it can be hard at first to iterate the concept of body image. I deeply appreciate the importance of promoting self-love and body positivity during this pivotal time in a young girl’s life.  

The GITK “Promoting a Healthy Body Image” session, an arm in our 4-part Empowerment Workshop Series, is essential because it helps to plant the seed of empowering girls in our community to love and respect their bodies. The session dives into understanding the balance between internal and external characteristics, the power of positive self-talk, and the significant influence of media on body image. I firmly believe that every girl is unique and deserving of celebration, and it’s vital to remind them of that. 

 

Devon is a registered dietitian and fitness professional with over 12 years combined experience, currently working as a dietitian at BJC HealthCare and as a head coach at Orangetheory Fitness. She earned her Master’s in Human Sciences and Health Communication from Fontbonne University.

Devon Lambur, MA, RD, LD
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EmpowerHer: GITK Blog