By Lisa Ellis

“Educate a woman and you educate her family. Educate a girl and you change the future.” Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan. In the early 1990s, I heard Queen Noor of Jordan quote something very similar during one of her many speeches. I vividly remember how this quote resonated with me and became entwined with my own personal philosophy. It certainly inspired me, as an educator, to focus on girls, as that is an area where I have a lot of influence.

Throughout my 37 years as a classroom teacher and global traveler, I have had many opportunities to empower women and girls. I’ve also been given many gifts of seeing my work come into fruition. I bring this up, because the women involved with GIVE have no idea of the enormous impact we have on the girls in our group. We don’t really think about it because we are doing what we normally do, serve, but this is colossal!

I became involved with GIVE about seven years ago. GIVE (Girls Invested in Volunteer Efforts) is an initiative of the Women’s Fund. Through this meaningful program, high school girls from area public, private, and charter schools experience the joy of collective giving and grant-making. At once-a-month gatherings during the school year, the girls gain a better understanding of philanthropy, become more aware of community issues, and volunteer together and give together to transform lives.

When I first got involved with GIVE, it didn’t thrive like it has over the past three years. Over those early years, I noticed that the majority of girls involved were predominantly white, affluent young ladies. This was not intentional by any means, it’s just the way it was because many of the girls were daughters of women involved in The Women’s Fund.

As an educator, I wanted more diversity. Not only for the organization, but also for the girls I taught in my public school classrooms. These girls came from more meager backgrounds with less opportunities. I wanted “my girls” to learn the lessons and receive the opportunities they too deserve. However, I taught at the middle school level, and the girls I had contact with were not old enough to participate.

This past school year, God moved me to the high school arena where I am teaching girls who can participate in GIVE. God certainly gave me the tools, because our very first GIVE Girls meeting was over the top. We had over 50 girls attend, with more than half being students from my school, Early College High School (ECHS). The majority of these girls come from low socioeconomic backgrounds and many are considered “First Generation” students. Nonetheless, twenty-six of them were there to participate and serve.

Our GIVE Girls program has grown leaps and bounds over the past three years. This year our girls are giving away one of the largest grants ever. GIVE is now a diverse group of young women serving our community and being led by a magnificent group of mentors, women from The Women’s Fund of Smith County. This makes my heart happy, and it dances with joy!

With this said, The Women’s Fund is empowering a group of young women who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunities granted by GIVE. Albeit these girls have loving mothers and other significant women in their lives, but their moms may not be able to and don’t always know how to participate in community service.

I can’t even express in words how grateful my ECHS girls are for having the chance to participate in GIVE. They have not only learned about nonprofits and volunteered, but have also gained insights into their own roles and purpose as they move on to adulthood. The Power of the Purse luncheon opened up an opportunity for some of my senior Hispanic girls to meet Nancy Rangel, President/CEO Tyler Hispanic Business Alliance. She, in turn, invited them to attend the Tyler Hispanic Business Alliance luncheon. This one event opened additional doors and windows for these girls. WOW!

In conclusion, I have no doubt that all the girls involved in GIVE will “pay it forward” during their lifetime. By educating them in the area of philanthropy, we have opened the gates to change in the future. A HUGE impact if you think about it. Can you imagine how many other generations will be influenced by OUR girls? Kind of like the “Domino Effect”!

About the Author

My name is Lisa Ellis. I have been a classroom teacher for 37 years. My undergraduate and graduate studies in education were obtained here in East Texas. I have taught in both public and private schools in various places around Texas. In addition, I spent four years in Eritrea East Africa at an International School. My goal has always been to introduce students to the many opportunities available to them as they pursue life after high school and into adulthood as empathetic, caring, and productive citizens.