For an organization to be truly resilient, its people must be courageously resilient. In our work alongside clients, we experience this truth every day. Within this blog series, we’ve set out to tell the stories of resilient friends, family, and colleagues who inspire and motivate us to persevere in the face of challenges and do good in the world and in our work.
In Part Two of “The Resilience of People” blog series, North Highland Vice President Nancy Schultz tells us about her friend Stacia Freeman, founder and CEO of EpicGirl. This non-profit organization educates, mentors, and nurtures opportunities for girls in need.
It’s always amazed me how personal choices made throughout our lives – whether it be accepting a new job, moving to a new city, or opening a business – can impact others in unforeseen ways. For my friend Stacia Freeman, leaving the corporate world started a journey that, over 10 years later, has helped others positively change the direction of their own lives. Her non-profit, EpicGirl, has a mission to educate and nurture opportunities for girls in need. As a member of the board, I’ve observed that this organization is powered by something greater than the services it provides: the resiliency of the girls it mentors. That’s why I find it so remarkable.
One of the reasons I believe Stacia is such a strong leader for EpicGirl is because of her long-standing interest in helping others and understanding social issues. Before her work in the non-profit world, she worked for a medical corporation with a graduate degree. Having recently started a family, she knew that her work’s frequent travel schedule conflicted with raising a family. Rather than continuing along a corporate path, she decided to pursue another passion: working to end sex-trafficking. Bringing her clinical background to this work, she focused on understanding the underlying causes of sex-trafficking, including gang violence and issues in the penal system.
After about 10 years in her new field, Stacia founded EpicGirl. While many non-profits focus on individual goals, Stacia has a different vision for her organization: to work with collaboration, teamwork, and a focus on common objectives. In its own words, the organization aims to “help at-risk girls recognize vulnerabilities in their history, educate them on potential negative consequences of these issues, and give them opportunities to connect with resources.” Over half of the participating girls ask to work with older mentors who can serve as positive examples. What I love most about Stacia’s perspective is that she recognizes—and embraces—that every girl is unique. No two stories are the same, yet collectively, the girls share an interest in learning, growing, and accomplishing goals.
Since its founding in 2016, EpicGirl has profoundly impacted over 200 girls’ lives, and I’m in awe as Stacia continues to work tirelessly to expand EpicGirl’s reach. She hopes to hire a full-time counselor, as well as an attorney to serve as an advocate for girls involved in legal conflicts. To help girls avoid foster care, Stacia also seeks to provide housing in the future. In speaking with Stacia about these goals, I’ve felt honored to be part of a mission that’s so strongly committed to the healing process. It’s in this healing that I believe the girls are empowered to find the resiliency needed to overcome inevitable future obstacles and adversity.
Through EpicGirl, Stacia is also helping the community shift its perspective about helping others, urging people to “grow in different ways of giving back.” In my own personal journey with EpicGirl, I’ve felt uplifted in hearing stories of girls deciding to pursue education, resolve conflicts with poise, and start careers. Through these triumphs, Stacia has expressed a tremendous amount of gratitude to her team that works up to 14-hour days teaching, coaching, and planning for the girls. In many ways, I think EpicGirl’s volunteers and mentors are fortunate to have Stacia as a mentor of their own—a mentor in giving back.
In seeing Stacia’s vision brought to life—a vision that’s nurtured the success of so many—I’ve found it’s the girls’ resiliency that ultimately makes the organization successful. Its mentors and resources help girls find it within themselves to proactively change the course of their lives. I couldn’t be happier to be part of an organization focused on bringing girls and women together to secure positive futures.
Image credit to the EpicGirl blog.
Click here to read Part One in the "Resilience of People" blog series.