Girls for a Change Empowers Black Youth for the Future Workforce

Iyanna H. was introduced to Girls For a Change (GFAC) by a friend in seventh grade, but as someone who long struggled with self-confidence, she wishes she’d known about it sooner.

“It’s a beautiful sisterhood,” she said, “a safe place where I’ve learned to feel confident in myself.”

The nonprofit aims to empower Black girls across Central Virginia by teaching them to visualize their bright futures and potential through discovery, development, innovation and social change in their communities.

Since getting involved, Iyanna has joined several programs, including the Girl Ambassador program, where she developed her own business. Through Iyanna Moné Essentials, she sells everyday glam products like vegan lip gloss and mink lashes using skills she’s learned in the program.

“I’ve learned how to design my own logo, code, use Microsoft apps to organize the business and had speaking opportunities,” she said. Iyanna took part in the Capital One Coders program where she learned to create apps to build a website as a potential pathway for her future as a technologist. “They taught me that the stigma that Black girls can’t be certain things isn’t true. I can reach any goal I set my mind to.”

Girls For a Change’s programs start in first grade and go through the girls’ post-graduate years.

“Depending on the age of the girls, they have different needs, so we make the programs age-appropriate,” said Angela Patton, CEO of Girls For a Change. “It’s a continuum where they can start here, stay here and see success here, whatever they may need. All of the programs are inter-connected as the girls grow into womanhood.”

Girl Action Teams encourage girls from middle school on up to use their voices and become critical thinkers who identify problems, create a plan of action and take their plan to those who can affect change. Recently, the girls addressed the Virginia Department of Education about the dress code policy, which disproportionately affects girls.

“We take the girls out into the community to meet with the leaders who have the power to change things,” Patton said. “They learn how to share their own experiences, ideas and perspectives, and speak for themselves rather than have others speak for them. We offer guidance if they need it, but mainly we get out of the way, let the girls soar and see their voices being heard.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, GFAC faced new and unprecedented challenges to keep their programs running. Capital One jumped in to not only provide financial support and volunteer mentors, they also helped GFAC reimagine the delivery of their services and programs.

“Capital One is deeply engaged in workforce development programs across our footprint, providing opportunities for individuals who face impediments to unleash their potential and thrive in a rapidly changing employment market,” said Maureen Jules-Perez, VP of Technology at Capital One. “We’re proud to partner with organizations like Girls For a Change to create a more equitable and vibrant future for all.”

Girls For a Change is just one of the local nonprofits benefiting from Capital One’s Impact Initiative, which is aimed at closing the gaps in equity and opportunity. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.

“Reimagining an organization is hard, especially during a crisis, but when you have partners like Capital One who provide you with funding, support and expertise, you can take a breath and make it happen,” Patton said. “Capital One has been an extraordinary partner and we’re grateful for their commitment at helping us in multiple ways. I look forward to how our future will unfold in the movement to advance and invest in Black girls and other girls of color.”