'I Am That Girl'
New student organization offers women’s empowerment
On a global scale, women can often feel disempowered or struggle with self-negativity. The budding Grand Valley State University student chapter of I Am That Girl, however, has plans to combat this issue.
I Am That Girl, a national organization that started in 2012, aims to empower women across the country. Instated at GVSU in the fall semester of 2016, these Laker women are hoping to support their fellow classmates.
“Ever since I was young, I have always felt the need to go out of my way to help people. I think for women, always being exposed to negative ways to view ourselves that we need extra pushes of positivity in our everyday lives,” said Alyssa Vodak, vice president of the organization. “I Am That Girl will help women grow to truly love themselves and others, which is something I hope to help people succeed with.”
The organization was brought to GVSU because members felt there was a lack of woman positive spaces on campus.
“I felt that GV was kind of lacking a space like this for girls. Being a women, gender and sexuality studies major and someone who really stands for women’s empowerment, I felt like the campus was lacking the community and space to encourage girls,” said Carianne Okopski, president of the club. “Telling them they're enough, validating who they are without worrying about what society says they should be and allowing them to speak up.”
I Am That Girl will allow members to work on their personal and professional lives while belonging to a community that cares about them.
“I Am That Girl is a movement to allow girls to love, express and be exactly who they are,” Okopski said. “It's basically a peer to peer program where girls come together to talk about things that actually matter to them, whether that's emotional, mental or physical well-being.
"Its focus is to give girls a community to build and focus on their leadership development, professional skills and personal growth.”
Members of I Am That Girl said opening a chapter on campus will allow for more support within the GVSU community.
“This organization signifies hope for the future. It is so reassuring knowing that a group of girls are there to listen and understand everything that one another is going through,” Vodak said. “I believe it is so important for women to feel as if they have a belonging and understanding of why they are here.”
Executive members of the organization hope I Am That Girl will help women grow a strong self-confidence.
“My hope is to watch women grow a confidence that they never really thought they would have,” Vodak said. “Many people struggle with insecurities and problems that make them feel alone, and with I Am That Girl we can come together as a whole to make each other feel welcomed and loved.”
Okopski said the organization will address positive self-talk and move towards a change in girl culture as a whole. The club moves to change "girl culture" today in society, while building support amongst women not negativity.
“I just want to get as many girls on campus to be involved. It's so important to me that girls feel empowered like that, within our society, especially now, we can't let that message go,” said Okopski. “We'll be talking about identifying and addressing negative self-talk and how to change it so that you're not only not bringing yourself down, but also not bringing each other down."
For members of the club, starting I Am That Girl on campus is the beginning of an incredible journey and a look into the future, especially on campus.
“This means the world to me. This is what I want to do when I graduate, the job I want is to empower women so it's kind of like I don't really know what to say,” Okopski said. “But I'm still a bit in awe that I'm able to do this.”