How a Syracuse eighth grader is empowering girls across the globe

How a Syracuse eighth grader is empowering girls across the globe

The Girls Loving Ourselves Worldwide initiative invites Black and Brown girls in grades 6 to 11 from across the globe to participate in a yearlong virtual program.
Published: April 1, 2021
Samaia Goodrich recruited who she calls her special “committee” of friends to help her form GLOW.

When the pandemic hit, it gave people something they had a high shortage of: time. While some people used it to take up a new hobby or start a business, eighth grader Samaia Goodrich spent it creating a global self-empowerment initiative for Black and Brown girls.

The Girls Loving Ourselves Worldwide initiative invites Black and Brown girls in grades 6 to 11 from across the globe to participate in a yearlong virtual program to receive mentoring, brainstorm community service projects and practice self-love, said Goodrich, who attends Expeditionary Learning Middle School in Syracuse.

“Our mission is to empower girls all over the world to empower each other, and then rally a collective voice with a vision for positive change,” Goodrich said. “We are dedicated to helping all girls, but Black and Brown girls especially, to know and understand that they are valued and valuable.”

In the program, a cohort of up to 100 participants meet every three months to engage in activities and training that involve forming connections with one another, working to develop service projects that impact their communities, participating in leadership development and creating media campaigns that promote positive images of Black and Brown girls.

Since fifth grade, Goodrich has always wanted to create a project that would help Black and Brown girls in her community feel valuable and beautiful, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 hit that she found the time to start it.

Goodrich said spending more time in her room during the pandemic gave her time to reflect on the number of negative images of Black women she sees in the media and incidents like Breonna Taylor’s death. Taking after the women in her family who’ve raised her to always help others, Goodrich knew she couldn’t just stay in her room, but needed to find a way to help the Black and Brown girls in her community feel empowered during these emotional times.

“All of the racism and negative images and very few positive images that we see in commercials, social media, on billboards and stuff like that really got me to thinking that this was the time to do something for and with girls in my community, and actually girls all over the world,” she said.

In the winter of 2020, she urged her mother, Akua Goodrich, who is now GLOW’s chief operations officer, to help her form this initiative, saying it was critical that girls her age have a support group making them feel valuable. Akua said that seeing how distraught but passionate her daughter was during that conversation convinced her to begin right away.

“It was hitting her,” she said. “That’s when I knew this was serious. She’s always serious about a project but that’s when I knew this was real.”

The two then brainstormed ideas on how to get girls involved with community service and what to name the initiative. Months later, the initiative has 62 applicants from different countries as of Thursday, Akua said.

The GLOW initiative consists of a team of mentors who support middle and high school girls across the globe.

GLOW is an initiative of a larger project Goodrich made in third grade called the Let Our Voices Echo Project -Syracuse, which encourages young people in her community to get involved in any kind of service, she said. This earned her the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2017 Youth Unsung Hero Award — she was the youngest recipient.

The GLOW initiative is especially important to Goodrich and to middle and high school girls because this is a period in most girls’ lives where they struggle with their appearance and feeling accepted.

“It is really important for us to have people who encourage us to be positive, and to get our education, and to live out our dreams so that we feel good about ourselves and the things that we can contribute to the world,” she said.

Tayah Barnes, the director of image and leadership and founder of Tayah J. Cosmetics, said she joined the initiative because it’s important for women to feel empowered and form positive relationships.

“It is so super necessary right now, because I believe so much of the world looks down on Black and Brown girls because we are misunderstood,” she said. “Well, really I don’t think people take the time to get to know who we are and all that we have contributed and will continue to give in making this world a place that sees and respects both our inner and outer beauty.”

Barnes helps develop the overall image of the brand and the executive team. She said to promote the initiative worldwide, the team shared the website through networking and social media, created a recruitment video and recruited ambassadors, funders and GLOWMAs — mentors who check in on assigned groups of girls each month.

Ntsoaki Cappa, Goodrich’s grandmother and a GLOWMA, said she is looking forward to being an advocate for girls, especially those from other countries like Liberia, Kenya and the Dominican Republic. She said being international is important for upholding GLOW’s mission because it will allow participants to see that young girls around the world are experiencing similar challenges as them and to help them build friendships outside of their respective communities.

“I could just imagine the feeling and the highs and letting them see that there are people in the United States that look like me, and letting our young ladies see that there are people in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and Liberia and Kenya and Ghana that look like me, and we all have the same desires,” she said.

Akua said they were able to get applicants from Africa through networking with friends who’ve lived in countries like Zambia and Kenya and connected with various youth groups and churches who shared the website.

Akua said her daughter researches the different foods and cultures as well as current events of the country where the applicant is from every time she’s notified about an application. The research is helping her become more open-minded and learn about people outside her community.

“It’s strikingly amazing for a 13-year-old to be able to grasp that just because we’re all Black or Brown, we’re not the same, but we’re all important,” she said.