Catalyst | Personal Development | Bridge Builder
Becoming a leader in our own life begins with knowing who we are and what we stand for.
It begins with identifying our strengths, recognizing our weaknesses, and understanding how we fit into the larger world we live in. In also means understanding what core values are, why they matter, and key character traits for success in work and life.
Our Leadership Program Story
In 2013, Foundation for Girls founder, Shreya Mantha, discovered the Global Girls Project — a global storytelling platform that explores the role character and core values play in the global gender conversation. Inspired by the stories and eager to learn more, Shreya reached out to Sharon Reed, co-founder of the project with her then 10 year old daughter, and shared her vision with Sharon for creating a non-profit to serve at-risk girls by nurturing the leader inside of every girl.
Over time, what initially began as a mentor-mentee relationship, evolved into a collaborative partnership and friendship that continues to the present through Sharon’s advisory board role and leadership programming with the Foundation for Girls. In keeping with Sharon’s vision for her own work, this partnership speaks to the power of cross-generational leadership, mentorship and collaboration in helping empower, inspire, and build the next generation of leaders.
At the Foundation for Girls, we believe that achieving success in work and life is tied to a fundamental understanding of core values, key character traits and self-awareness, whether related to our strengths, struggles, successes or setbacks.
While many traditional leadership and/or job-readiness programs focus on developing tactical skills and behaviors that can be applied in a work environment, we believe that the journey to self-leadership, economic and social mobility begins within. It begins with an understanding of who we are, what we’re striving for, and how cultural context and core values shape and influence our sense of purpose and place in our families, communities, and the world-at-large.
Designed to complement FFG’s hands-on financial well-being classes and other workshops, we believe that our integrated ‘inside-out/outside-in’ approach not only equips and empowers our workshop participants to develop practical life skills, but enables them to develop and cultivate the core values and self-knowledge needed to achieve success in life and work. Moreover, while our programs are aimed at the individual, we believe in the collective benefit of our work — helping increase social capital through new connections, advance economic mobility, while elevating the importance of key issues that impact our community-at-large.
Meeting Our Youth Where They Are
Feedback from FFG’s workshop participants reveals that most if not all of our clientele have lived unstable lives that are rife with struggle, abuse, neglect, and abandonment, creating both internal and external challenges that impact their ability to develop a sense of personal agency, essential for transitioning from merely surviving to truly thriving and living productive, healthy lives.
"True empowerment begins with the deep knowing you matter."
Where many are currently receiving social services related to their individual circumstances and immediate needs, few, if any have been afforded the opportunity to participate in programs that not only enrich self-knowledge and expose them to a higher level of learning, but enable them to forge deeper relationships with their peers, while helping them identify resources and build the social support and capital needed to transition out of their current circumstances.
At the Foundation for Girls, our inclusive approach and diversity of program offerings not only creates a gateway to learning, but helps forge a path forward for our youth.
Leadership at the Intersection of Innovation, Character & Core Values
Broken into bite-sized modules designed with at-risk youth in mind, our leadership program is divided into 1.5 hour sessions that marry an overview of key character traits for success such as integrity, trust, and personal resilience, with exercises and in-depth discussion designed to challenge participants to not only broaden their understanding of what each of the key principles mean, but how they apply and play out in their lives. Our two-part series on trust, for example, not only explores what trust means conceptually, but incorporates learning activities and facilitated discussion on how to build trust with others, repair trust that’s been broken, and strategies for cultivating self-trust — essential to exercising good judgment and working well with others.
While our leadership framework follows a structured format that incorporates key character traits and principles of personal development in each of its sessions throughout the calendar year, our workshops are also designed to be both innovative and agile — incorporating creative content and current events into our discussions, while adapting to the changing needs and demographics of our clientele. This approach not only increases engagement among our workshop participants, but fosters a mutuality of trust and respect, essential for productive learning and growth.
Building for the Future
At the Foundation for Girls, we believe in nurturing the leader in every girl and youth. As part of this commitment, we are dedicated to fostering an environment of continual learning, growth and development — inviting workshop participants to step into their own voice and leadership, participating as co-facilitators of select sessions in partnership with FFG staff and volunteers. Our experience shows that this approach not only increases engagement, but provides participants the opportunity to apply their learning in a safe environment, while growing in personal confidence and gaining valuable experience.
In Their Words...
"I appreciated the openness and willingness to share from the counselors and other youth."
"I learned how to better appreciate the opinions of others."
"I learned about how to respect myself and develop respect for others.”
"I learned how others I've never met perceive the world and how we have more in common with others than I thought."
"Today was my first day. I expected to hear positive people talk and explain things and I did. I would love to do activities related to our emotions.”
"I learned how to use healthy coping skills when it comes to hard times and how to develop self-trust."
"I learned that people can relate with my problems...that it's okay to have flaws and pain and that I am not alone."
"I appreciated seeing how many common struggles we all have. You would never know there are people going through the same things as you are until you talk about it and are willing to be vulnerable."
"I learned I need a foundation of support and self-trust before I can move forward; self-trust is really hard and complex."
"I enjoyed the way I fit in with the group and how much people were alike."
Leadership Program Leader
Sharon is an author, advocate, speaker, entrepreneur, and change-agent for good, with a passion for helping others find their authentic voice and realize their leadership potential.
An active advocate for women and girls’ empowerment, between 2015-2016 Sharon worked as a communications consultant and Global Community Champion for the United Nations (UN) Empower Women team, serving as co-architect of the award-winning social media campaign, #iamwoman, and later as project lead and co-editor of the book, Voices of Change, released at UN Headquarters during the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
Sharon also serves as Chief Empowerment Officer of the Global Girls Project™, an award-winning not-for-profit storytelling platform she co-founded with her daughter in 2013 that elevates the importance of character and core values in the global gender conversation, and most recently served as program facilitator for KPMG LLP-CREW Charlotte’s inaugural women’s leadership program, Becoming an Authentic Leader, modeled after the eight core principles of the ATHENA International Leadership Model.
Her work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Shriver Report, Women in Foreign Policy, and UN Women, among others. Widely recognized for her service, advocacy and leadership work, in 2016 Sharon received the ATHENA International® Women’s Leadership Award for Service (Charlotte), the CREW Charlotte Outreach Award, and was named by the Meck Times as one of 2016’s 50 Most Influential Women. Actively engaged in service at the local and global level, in 2011, Sharon also received the Distinguished Rotarian Award for her work in advancing global education and engagement.
She currently serves on the Programming Committee of ATHENA International, Leadership Committee of CREW Charlotte and as a member of the NC State Leaders Network for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. She also oversees the leadership program and serves as an Advisory Board member for the Foundation for Girls -- a Charlotte-based 501(c)3 organization focused on providing mentoring, STEM, financial literacy, leadership, and skills-based training for at-risk youth in the Charlotte region.
In her spare time, Sharon enjoys writing on personal leadership development and creating inspirational art and giftware under the brand, Heart by Design™. A contributing author to three books on hope, she is also the author of Walking the Heart Path: Bite-Sized Bits of Wisdom on Living & Leading from the Inside Out, her first solo book released on March 8, 2017. She lives in Davidson, NC, with her two children, Michael and Allison.