We love stories about women who are making things happen. Today we’re showcasing a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization founded by a woman who is not only “making it happen” for herself—she’s helping girls see their voice matters and making young women’s dreams come true.

“My three siblings dropped out of high school in the 9th grade—the fact that I’m an uprising junior at a prestigious liberal arts college is truly a dream come true, not just for me but for my whole family.” Alejandra Castillo says. “WriteGirl gave me the confidence to go after what my heart desires. Right now I’m considering a career in either primary education, social work or the non-profit world.”

What is WriteGirl? It’s the brainchild of Keren Taylor, a former sales exec who had the idea of leveraging the skills of women writers to mentor underserved youth through a slate of creative writing workshops, one-on-one mentoring and college readiness programs. The girls come from more than 60 areas in the greater Los Angeles area, while mentors and volunteers are accomplished journalists, novelists, poets, TV and film writers, songwriters, marketing executives, attorneys, and editors from all over Los Angeles County.

This innovative program explores all kinds of creative writing through:

  • One-on-one mentoring with professional women writers
  • Creative writing workshops exploring poetry, journalism, fiction, and more
  • Public readings and special events in Los Angeles
  • Publication of anthologies distributed nationwide

Now in their 15th season, WriteGirl has guided 100% of the high school seniors in its Core Mentoring Program to not only graduate from high school but also enroll in college, with many obtaining full or partial scholarships.

Wait. Did you catch that stat? 100% of WriteGirl teens go to college—and that has been their track record for over a decade.

These teens are accomplishing great things. One was recently selected to be a youth delegate for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and another received a Scholastic Art & Writing Award. In 2014, a WriteGirl teen was selected as the first LA Youth Poet Laureate, and four others were finalists.

Glenda Garcia joined in 2002. “In high school there was nowhere to go for a girl like me, an opinionated Latina with idealistic dreams. I was so fortunate to find WriteGirl, an organization that not only invested in my success but genuinely cared about what I had to say and the direction of my future.”

Through the WriteGirl program, Glenda received personal and academic guidance and received a full-tuition college scholarship. She graduated magna cum laude from Dickinson College, then joined AmeriCorps VISTA as an after-school coordinator and teacher for an underprivileged community in Somerton, AZ. “The mentorship that I received through WriteGirl helped me understand that students’ learning does not end in the classroom—it flows out into community centers, coffee shops, bookstores, libraries, and especially after-school programs.”

Glenda went on to complete a term as a Fulbright grantee in Thailand. “As a low-income Latina from a single-parent household, I would have never envisioned myself as the recipient of a nationally renowned scholarship who would study abroad in India, graduate from a top liberal arts college, intern at our nation’s capital and then secure a very prestigious fellowship.”

Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen!

The BELONG Tour is thrilled to announce WriteGirl as the beneficiary of the BELONG Collective from our Ontario, California event. The BELONG Collective was formed as a partnership between the BELONG Tour and Legacy Collective to advocate and raise funds for initiatives in the cities that the Belong Tour is meeting.

We believe in sustainable change in the communities where we live, and believe there is no better way than through those who live and work in these communities.  Therefore, in each city we visit, we want to invite people to come together to invest in an organization that is making incredible, sustainable change in your community.

Learn more about BELONG Collective here.