You define you.
That’s the message Maria Grande hopes to inspire in young women with her upcoming Girls Empowerment Series. The inaugural event, to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, June 13, at Paris Caterers, 281 Berlin-Cross Keys Road, Berlin, is free to attend for girls ages 11 to 18.
“We’re trying to get girls to understand that they define themselves,” Grande said. “They don’t have to be defined by society. Or their parents. Or social media. Or their friends. Or their school. We want them to understand, you determine who you are.”
Grande, a personal power speaker and coach, is teaming up with two fellow Voorhees residents – councilwoman and financial planner Michelle Nocito and Eastern BOE member and yoga instructor Veronica Parker – for the new series, which she dubs “fun yet empowering.” The speakers will tackle such issues as self-esteem, self-worth, defining who you are, never accepting labels of any kind, social media truth, and more.
“It’s going to revolve mainly around personal power and how they can become who they want to be,” Grande said. “No matter what’s in the past, they can decide what they want to be in the future.”
Grande, who specializes in addressing issues surrounding personal growth, believes girls face a message of being “less than” from a young age. It’s commonplace to compare themselves to others, she explained, and to focus on what they lack instead of what they offer.
According to recent statistics, Grande is not off base with this thinking. National nonprofit Girls Inc. reports 74 percent of girls say they feel pressure to please everyone, and a national report by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund found seven in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including in looks, school performance and relationships.
“I want girls to understand they shouldn’t live and grow up with that thought of ‘I’m not enough,’” Grande said, adding this will create a more supportive and confident generation. “I want to stop the conditioned behaviors that we create at that age. Those behaviors are why we aren’t confident when we get older.”
While they are still looking for sponsorships to help cover costs and giveaways at the event, Grande said it was important for the trio to keep it at no cost to attendees. Registration is required at www.eventbrite.com (search “Girls Empowerment Series” in New Jersey), and those interested in sponsorships can contact Grande through her website at mariagrandellc.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Girls younger than age 13 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
“This is a way for girls to understand what personal power is,” Grande said, “so that they don’t let anyone make them feel less than.”