We’ve heard these stereotypes before. Women are catty, they don’t support each other, they compete to bring each other down or they are simply unsupportive of one another. However, if truth be told, these myths are just that –myths. There are women who genuinely love and support one another and still so many who are teaching young girls and women to do the same. Courtney Grady, founder of Unique Sisters all Girls Mentor Program, is on a quest to not only dispel these myths but also empower young women to be their best selves and flourish.
Grady, a 29 year old native of Ontario, Canada who grew up in and currently resides in metro-Detroit Michigan area, knew since 2010 that she was going to start a non-profit, but did not know what it would be. Having grown up in a single parent household with a mother who encouraged her children to give back to the community and do selfless acts for others, it was not a surprise that this foundation lent itself to Grady becoming the woman she is today. However, becoming the woman she is today was not an easy process. Grady recalls, “From 2008-2016 a few incidents allowed me to go through series of emotions. My father was killed at the hands of a police officer. And later I was sexually assaulted by a friend who I knew. After all this I felt like my voice didn’t matter and could not have any impact. But one day I decided that I was tired of pretending I was happy and decided to do better. I realized that my experiences made me able to relate with others in certain ways and I had something to offer. I began to see that we as women are all different but all the same in some ways-so we’re unique. From there the thought was how we can inspire sisters to the right and left of us, and that’s how Unique Sisters was born.”
Unique Sisters provides social, emotional and developmental skills to young girls from ages 8-17 years old, in the metro-Detroit, Michigan area. As a result of Grady’s work with the program’s participants, they have begun to build a true family and strong community awareness. Additionally, Grady, who works as an Education Intervention Specialist-working with children in Detroit Public School Community District providing targeted services to students who are not performing at grade level, has also designed a specialized curriculum for the program. The curriculum, called the Four Pillars of Success, serves as a guide to ensure that all of the organization’s programs and community service projects are aligned. The four pillars are social and self-acceptance, academic preparation, family engagement and community engagement. An example of a recent community service project the girls undertook was their Blessing Bag campaign. For the blessing bags, which are similar to hygiene kits, they were able to raise over $1,300 to make over 100 bags, which the girls were then tasked to distribute to those around the Detroit area.
Unique Sisters not only encourages participants to serve their community, but it also provides them with opportunities to enhance their skill sets and improve in areas where they may be lacking. Having had similar anxieties and stresses as a young woman, Grady is well poised to relate and meet the needs of the girls. Grady, a Central Michigan University graduate with a B.S. in Communications, remembers choosing to study Communications because of her fear of public speaking and reading anxiety. “I was the kid always hiding in the class and hoping the teacher would not call on me to read out loud. I didn’t want to be an adult who had a fear of public speaking. If I’m going to pay $27,000 for a piece of paper, I’m going to spend it on something that will help me grow.” Recently Grady was able to encourage a young girl, who also suffered from a fear of public speaking- to the point of tears, to overcome her dread. It’s clear Grady made a worthwhile investment!
Despite Unique Sister’s success, such as partnerships with groups and individuals in their community as well as corporate sponsor Starbucks, there are tough decisions. Grady, who is determined to learn as many skills as possible, reflects on the need for proper evaluation of one’s skills. “If you need to launch a product, business or anything it’ll take time and money. You can spend thousands on brand manager but they’re using systems you have access to, you could’ve taken the time to learn skills to save money. So for example you do not have to choose between buying dinner that night of saving for a photo shoot or something else.” Grady also encourages young entrepreneurs to never lose faith in what they’re doing and to focus on their passions. “They [people] see pictures and see what is done in public, but they don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. The sacrifice you’re making now will pay off in the future. It’s about accepting the temporary sacrifices you have to make to fulfill the call God has placed on you.” She also reminds them to be connected to their passions. “A passion is what is in your heart, what are you constantly thinking of. If you’re not connected to your passion you probably shouldn’t go for it. Make sure everything you do is connected to your why, the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Grady’s greatest sources of motivation comes from the girls she serves, she considers them her girls. Currently Unique Sisters has 20 young ladies participating in the program, along with 10 business mentors. Grady is happy to share they will have 100% turnover, as all the participants and mentors will be returning for year 2 of the program. While these statistics are great, Grady still aspires for more. Her goal is to double these numbers, and create better experiences for the girls who participate. She also wants to bring Unique Sisters to different cities across the U.S. in the next 5-10 years. We’ll be on the look out!
By: Natacha Lorius
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