By Déshané Velasquez, Youth Empowerment Group Fellow

This summer, Operation HOPE’s Youth Empowerment Group in Atlanta partnered with COG STEM (Creating Opportunities for Girls) and Band of Coders to teach girls about entrepreneurship! Commencing the event, the girls participated in our Banking on Our Future (BOOF) program at HOPE Inside Ebenezer. After their lesson on financial dignity and the language of money, the girls participated in activities outside of the classroom. Some of these activities included resume creation, “about me” flyers, and a tour of the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth home.

During week 2 of programming, we were delighted to have Natasha Foreman Bryant serve as a guest speaker. She engaged our IMG_4340students with her inspiring journey and encouraged them to recognize their own potential. “You’re a billionaire – someone else just has your money!” Mrs. Bryant truly set the tone for our female entrepreneurs to think outside of the box while creating their businesses.

After Mrs. Bryant sparked the students’ imaginations, Angela Riley came in to help them further develop their business ideas. We are very grateful for our committed volunteer, Angela Riley, who is an Economic Development Specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. Ms. Riley has been volunteering for Operation HOPE since 2008 and she has played a pivotal role in making our students’ dream businesses become reality.

“Someone helped me along the way to get to where I am, so giving back is very important to me. I truly want to see the girls flourish and be their own captains. Even if they decide to work for someone else, they will know how to sail their own ships.”

IMG_4332Ms. Riley also invited Lee Mertins, Area Director at the Economic Development Administration, to serve as a pitch competition judge. The Atlanta Youth Empowerment Group is elated to engage locally with long-term partners, such as the Economic Development Administration.

Ms. Riley has been so kind as to continue working with the COG S.T.E.M. girls until they complete their business plans. As of thiswriting, we have a variety of businesses in the works such as: Jazz Hair, an edge cream company; Paws and Claws, a pet-sitting service; and EZ Party Pack, a party planning service – just to name a few of the businesses!

In just a few more weeks, we will be receiving the final business plans and requesting checks to launch all the young female-based businesses within the program. We are so thankful for the commitment of the community and our volunteers, and we are excited to keep up the momentum throughout the summer!