MBG Speaks With 'Step Up' On Its Mission To Empower Young Women & How You Can Help

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It's no secret that the teenage years are filled with a range of internal and external struggles that can shape you on your way to adulthood. However, being a teenage girl in an underserved community adds a multitude of stressors that can be challenging to navigate. Herein lies Step Up, the national organization whose mission is to empower young women to become confident, career bound and college ready. Step Up has been so successful in its mission that it has garnered the support of celebrities such as Jessica Alba, America Ferrera, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Lopez (to name a few). As the organization gears for its 6th annual Shine & Dine Event, set for Thursday, August 11, 2016, at the Bridgeport Art Center's Skyline Loft, we spoke with staff member Tiera Diaz about Step Up and why it's such an amazing organization to support.  

MBG: What inspired you to begin your work with Step Up

TD: I work with Step Up because after growing up with similar challenges to the teens we work with, it is now my responsibility to return to my community with the knowledge and experiences I have gained and contribute to the advancement of that community by creating more access to opportunity.

Tierra Diaz (far left) at a Step Up event

Tierra Diaz (far left) at a Step Up event

MBG: Who were your mentors and/or role models growing up?

TD: My grandmother raised me and worked extremely hard to support me. She is my role model and inspiration. 

MBG: There are so many factors that prevent young women from completing high school. In your opinion, what are the main obstacles young girls in underserved communities face that prevent them from graduating high school?

TD: There are many reasons why teen girls struggle to feel worthy of access to equal educational opportunities and therefore allow their potential to be underutilized. Many of those reasons are systemic, as girls’ complex identities do not grant them the same privileges as granted to others. In order for students to succeed, they need to know that they are valuable to society. This value needs to be demonstrated not only through the actions of the local school staff, but the city and education system as a whole. All teens deserve access to a quality education and a network of adult supporters. All teens, families, schools, and communities benefit when schools are a hub for enrichment and support services. An investment in our schools and our teens is an investment in our communities and our nation’s future.

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MBG: Step Up's mission is to help young girls become confident, career bound and college ready. Confidence is such a hard emotion/behavior to instill; I know I still have trouble with it. How does Step Up help empower girls with confidence? 

TD: Confidence provides teens with the foundation they need to realize their potential and develop the ability to persevere through obstacles and ultimately succeed. Step Up addresses barriers that hinder girls’ ability to feel confident and allow them to develop their identity and define their voice through structured, curriculum-based programming that is proven to be effective.

MBG: How can our readers get involved? Is it possible to be involved with Step Up if you don't have ample time to give? 

TD: Step Up recognizes the importance of girls belonging to a community of aspirational women working together to build a better future. Mentorship is key as it provides girls with exposure to different possibilities as well as a wide array of adults that support them. In order to recruit a large and diverse membership base, our mentorship model accommodates the busy lives of professional women. Women can engage with Step Up as frequently as their schedule allows, either at our one-day mentorship conferences, regular after-school sessions, or professional networking events hosted throughout the year.

Presented by Allstate Insurance Company and Ulta Beauty, Step Up's Shine & Dine Event will welcome more than 700 guests to sip and snack their way through 15 tasting stations from Chicago's top eateries, while highlighting honorees and raising funds for Step Up's mentorship programs. Click here for tickets.

For more information about the organization and how to get involved, click here.

copy by: gabriela garcia

images courtesy of: Step Up