8 February 2016
Category: Statement Makers
A statement is an opinion or attitude that you express through the things you do, the things you say, and even the way you dress. At Customized Girl, we just can’t get enough of statement makers.
For the last two years we have been seeking out women who are doing extraordinary and interesting things. One of our objectives is to celebrate and bring those young women everywhere together to create a community of statement makers. We believe that girls should be free to say what they want, when they want, and ultimately express themselves. To help enhance those opportunities, we wanted to give these trailblazers a platform to raise their voices and captivate the world. The Customized Girl Statement Maker scholarship was born!
We are thrilled with the hundreds of inspiring and wonderful submission’s we received this year. Every statement was so impactful and incredible it was a difficult task of choosing just one.
The Customized Girl Scholarship is awarded to the girl with the most important and creative message to share. We are proud to announce this year’s statement maker and scholarship winner of $2,500 – Marisa Lucht!
Marisa’s statement: Don’t be afraid to use glitter pens while writing your future.
We love this statement because it confirms that women are in charge of their own future and only they have the ability to control it and make it incredible. For too long, women have been living up to the expectations of others.
We sat down and talked to Marisa and asked her why this statement is so important to her and her plans for school and beyond. This is what she had to say:
What are you studying?
I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics. Right now I am taking a lot of math and science courses but also have had a chance to take theology and philosophy because of Notre Dame’s university requirements. Next year I hope to take more economics, business, and computer science courses to decide if any of these areas are something I want to double major in.
Why did you choose Notre Dame?
From the moment I stepped foot onto the Notre Dame campus, I felt at home. Nothing compares to the Fighting Irish family and I am so fortunate to be part of such a strong community. Besides Notre Dame’s amazing community, I also love the emphasis on spirituality and intellectual growth. At Notre Dame, the staff and all of the students care about who you are as a person. As I continue my education it has been phenomenal to be challenged through my school work and also by my peers who encourage me to grow in my faith and give back to the community through volunteerism. Finally, if all of this was not enough, I am a sports fanatic and love cheering on all the Fighting Irish sports teams. My experience at Notre Dame has been extraordinary and I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to attend such a premier university.
Your statement was all about writing your own future. What do you see in your future?
In the future, I hope to make a difference. Whether that is doing research to help policy makers create legislation that changes the lives of everyone in America or if it is simply making my little sister laugh. I want to leave the world a better place than it was when I came into it. In order to do this, I know that I must not be afraid to stand out and stand up for what I believe is right. We dictate our futures, so anything is possible.
Your major is “Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics”. Awesome. How can we (as a society, as an industry) recruit more young women into technology fields?
To encourage more young women to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, we should begin asking them if they enjoy solving problems rather than if they are good at science. By shifting the focus from having an arbitrary skill set to making them think about if they are curious about the world, we can open their eyes to all the possible STEM careers they may be interested in. We must teach young women not to be afraid to be themselves. Women are problem solvers. Women are inventive. Women have the power to shape the future by pursuing fields in technology.
We were inspired by Marisa’s statement and hope it can inspire more girls to stand up and be statement makers. Thanks again to everyone who entered our scholarship contest! We cannot wait for next year’s contest and to hear all of your amazing statements!
Customized Girl wants to increase opportunities for bold, young women and with the addition of custom apparel storefront, they have even more chances to to express themselves and leave their mark on the world.
11 March 2015
Category: Statement Makers
Last year we established Customized Girl’s statement maker scholarship. We are all about statement makers and celebrating those who have an important message to share with the world. Statements are what we love and that’s why our scholarship is centered on not only making them but helping spread their awareness. Every girl has a statement to make and we wanted to give a platform to those individuals who wanted to have their voice heard. With this platform we also wanted to offer the opportunity for these young, inspirational women to win money to go towards their college tuition.
Once again, we received hundreds of amazing and motivational submissions that made this year’s decision extra difficult. Each statement had it’s own personality and powerful voice but there was one statement that intrigued our judge’s the most.
Customized Girl is proud to announce our second annual statement maker scholarship winner of $2,500 – Maggie Noriega!
Maggie’s statement: Live your life as if you had an infinite amount of confetti.
We love this statement because it is important message to everyone to not sweat the small stuff and to live your life to the fullest. Sometimes we all can get lost in insignificant tasks or drama that come with life but all that matters is what makes you happy and what legacy you want to leave in this world. It’s a great message to celebrate even the smallest success’ that you accomplish and if you fail – pick yourself back up and try again.
Recently, we sat down and talked to Maggie and asked her why this statement is so important to her and her plans for school and beyond. This is what she had to say:
What are you looking forward to the most in your college career?
I look forward to meeting new people and exploring new places. I can’t wait to experience the changes college will bring.
What are your hobbies?
A main hobby of mine is watching movies. I’ve seen 45 out of 100 movies on the American Film Institute’s “100 greatest American Films of all time” list. My goal is to watch all 100 of them by the end of 2015! I also love hiking, listening to music, and going to museums.
Why is this statement so important to you?
I love this quote because it’s saying to celebrate every happy, successful, and joyous moment in your life. It reminds me to enjoy the little things, and don’t be afraid to celebrate even the tiniest success. It also reminds me to be grateful for everything that I am lucky to have.
How did you come across this statement? Is it something someone told you or did you come up with it yourself?
I actually overheard this statement from a crew leader while I was working in Yellowstone. Thanks Jarrett! I never thought something so brief, that wasn’t even said to me directly would impact my life in such a positive way.
What does the world need to know about you?
I think the world needs to know that I want to make a positive change. In the earth, myself, and the people around me. Also they need to know how appreciative I am for this award! It’s so cool to be recognized for something so small. A last thank you to everyone that has been in my life so far. Excited to see where the future will take me!
We were inspired by Maggie’s statement and hope it can inspire more girls to stand up and be statement makers.
Congrats Maggie – We wish you all the best in college!
No worries if you missed out entering this year. We will host our scholarship annually before the start of every school. Stay updated with Customized Girl and make sure to check out last years scholarship winner!
30 May 2014
Category: Statement Makers
A little while back, we stumbled across Honestly Margo- a beauty business focusing on all-natural lip balms made from pure ingredients. We loved their mission and their honest approach to business! Then we found out Honestly Margo was started by Margo, a 13 year old girl with LOTS of motivation and passion.
She started Honestly Margo when she was just twelve years old. We were incredibly impressed by her story and HAD to make Margo a Statement Maker! Check out our interview with Margo below!
Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Margo?
Well I’m a 13 year old girl that likes to hang out with her friends and go to the movies. I have some great friends that are really supportive! I also LOVE to play soccer! Soccer is a big part in my life. I love fashion and being on Pinterest lol. I’m a normal girl that likes to have fun and hang out! I love 24 on fox!! MY FAV SHOW EVER!!!!!! I also really love beauty and taking care of myself. I guess this is me!
Honestly Margo is the lip balm company that I created when I was 12. When I was younger (younger than I am now) I would always try to make things and sell them to my friends and people I knew so when I thought of lip balm I knew it was perfect. I came up with my natural amazing formula and I sold them to my friends! They LOVVEED them so my mom suggested that we take it bigger and that is exactly what we did!
How did you come up with the idea? Why all natural lip balm?
I tried to sell everything when I was younger from cat collars to an online art shop. I have always loved beauty and taking care of myself so lip balm was perfect since it had no color and I could wear it everyday. I think things that are natural and healthy for us are good because there are so many things that are unhealthy that we use in our day to day life.
Is it difficult balancing school, extracurriculars, running your own business, and still finding time to be a 13 year old? How do you manage? And what keeps you motivated to do it all?
If you organize your time and designate when you will be doing what it’s not very hard. Sometimes I’m exhausted from sports or school but you have to get your work done. You also have to prioritize. I always make sure I have my homework done and then I do Honestly Margo work. If you don’t put work into it, nothing will come out of it. To accomplish your dream you have to be willing to work.
Honestly Margo seems to just keep growing and growing! How many stores carry your lip balms now?
Currently we are in 24 stores and 4 states and growing. You can get a full list for the stores I’m in at honestlymargo.com.
Where can we get some of your lip balms for ourselves?!
You can get my products in some stores in Oklahoma, Texas, New Jersey, and New York. BUT you can also get them at my website at honestlymargo.com.
What’s next for you? Will you expand Honestly Margo to include more beauty products?
Right now I don’t know what the future holds. Honestly Margo could expand or go into many other things. BUT I will be blogging VERRYYY soon so keep a look out for that!
You’re such an inspiration. What advice do you have for any other girls or women who are considering starting their own business?
Thank you soooo much!! I advise girls to take chances and to believe in yourself. If you put in the work and believe in yourself you can accomplish your goals!
Lastly, what is your favorite flavor? We think Fruity Colada sounds delicious!
Hmmmm…it’s a hard question because I love them all but my favorite has to be our new RUBY! I love the berry flavor and it’s so moisturizing like all the others!!
Check out her blog!
Shop Honestly Margo’s Customized Girl Storefront!
28 April 2014
Category: Statement Makers
Our latest Statement Maker, Kim Hamper, is the Columbus, Ohio chapter leader of Girl Develop It. Girl Develop It is one of few dedicated organizations who’s mission it is to diversify the computer science industry by encouraging and educating women and girls interested in website development and design.
Read below for what Kim has to say about Girl Develop It and how she personally entered the world of software development!
What is Girl Develop It?
Girl Develop It provides affordable and accessible events and classes to women who want to learn programming skills.
How many GDI chapters are there? Are there any overseas?
The number of chapters keeps on growing! Currently, we have 25 chapters across the United States and Canada with more new chapter applications being processed for cities in North America and beyond. It’s amazing to see how much Girl Develop It has grown since it was founded in 2010.
Were you always interested in website/software development and coding?
Many times I considered trying out coding. During one phase of college, I was sure I was going to minor in computer science (this was somewhere in between the Film Studies and French Language stages), but I never took a single computer science course! It wasn’t until 2011, after I received Build Your Own Website the Right Way as a present, that I finally got started.
How did you get started coding?
So, as I mentioned, I started learning HTML and CSS from the book Build Your Own Website the Right Way. I built a terrible/awesome website in bright orange with cats, and I was totally hooked. I put my tax return towards an online course on programming in PHP next, and just a few months later I started working towards a master’s degree in software engineering.
Was coding your first career path?
Nope! I eventually settled on biology for my college major, but still had a wide range of interests and no idea what I wanted to do after I graduated. I interned at a human rights non-profit and worked as a Quality Control Engineer (basically lots of analysis and statistics) post-graduation before moving back to Ohio and discovering software development.
What about website/software development keeps you interested? Why have you decided to do it for a living?
The main reason: it’s exciting to make something tangible and immediately useful to other people. You also never stop learning as a developer, which keeps things interesting. There’s so much that goes into creating applications and websites. Even if I’m having a more creative, less analytical day, I can focus on the design of an application, or I can nerd out on marketing concepts and improving the usability of an app. There are a lot of different roles you can jump into under the “developer” umbrella.
How did you get involved with GDI?
I had just moved to Columbus in 2011 and joined the Meetup group for Girl Develop It Columbus (GDIC). Jen Myers (our chapter founder) sent out a message that she was looking for an Assistant Organizer. I hadn’t been to a single GDIC event yet and I hadn’t coded anything except my fabulous bright orange website, but I thought, why not? To my surprise, Jen gave me the position!
How long have you been the Columbus, Ohio GDI Chapter Leader?
I’ve been the chapter leader since early 2013, so a little over a year now.
Why is it important that we have organizations, like GDI, that encourage women to enter the world of web design and development?
The ratio of women-to-men in computer science and developer positions has been decreasing since the 1980s (when, according to Wikipedia, it was 38%). Diversity in general in the technology field is incredibly low. Organizations like GDI are working to increase diversity and open the technology field to new people with a variety of backgrounds. Many of the women involved with GDIC either didn’t have access to formal computer science education or didn’t realize that computer science was an option for them in school.
How can someone interested in learning coding get involved with GDI? Who can sign up for GDI
Come drop by an event and say hi! We have a Hack Night once a month which is a great starting point for learning about coding and Girl Develop It. We also have other events like regular Code and Coffees, as well as our classes. Our events are generally beginner-friendly and open to all levels. Our next coding class is an introductory programming class (in Ruby) slated for June, and any adult can sign up for a GDI class. We are targeted at women, but men who are passionate about our mission statement are always welcome. We have scholarships available to women for classes if cost (usually $80 for a four-week, eight-hour class) is a barrier, and we can usually find an extra laptop if a student needs to borrow one.
Finally, we’re also looking for a co-chapter leader, and have a slew of other volunteer/teacher positions open. If someone reading is interested in getting involved, send me an email (email@example.com). Even if you’ve only made a really terrible/awesome bright orange website, I would love to hear from you.
Find us here:
Meetup (for upcoming classes and events): http://www.meetup.com/girldevelopitcbus
Website: Girl Develop It
13 February 2014
Category: Statement Makers
Recently, Customized Girl ran a scholarship contest asking for girls everywhere to submit their power statements. Knowing that every girl has a statement to make, we thought it would be fun to offer the chance to win some money for school by letting your voice be heard.
You guys are awesome! We received hundreds of submissions and were blown away by the many different personalities and powerful statements we read. Our judges had the difficult task of narrowing down the submissions to just one powerful statement that intrigued us the most.
We are happy to announce the Winner of the $2,500 Customized Girl Statement Maker Scholarship – Mariah Dlugosch!
Mariah’s statement: What other people think of me is none of my business.
We love this statement because it is great advice for girls everywhere. It can be easy to get caught up in drama or fights between friends or bullies but if we all remember that our opinion of ourselves is the only one that matters then we can make life a lot easier.
Recently, we sat down and talked to Mariah and asked her why this statement is so important to her and her plans for school and beyond. This is what she had to say:
Where do you currently go to school?
Well I’m senior right now but in the Fall I’m going to Boise Sate.
That’s exciting! Do you know what you want to go to school for?
I might study Business or Psychology and take some art classes. I’m not too sure what I want to do yet, I’m kind of all over the board but I still have some time to figure it out.
Yeah, there is no rush. Do you have any hobbies?
I’m really into photography. I took a class in school and developed a strong passion for it and now I shoot senior pictures and some weddings. I also recently started taking piano lessons but I’m not very good yet.
Sounds like you have lots of interests, which is awesome. So, why is this statement so important to you?
It’s how I try to live my life. I think if you are doing what makes you happy then that is the only thing that should matter.
We love that! How did you come across this statement? Is it something someone told you or did you come up with it yourself?
My friend’s mom told me this when I was in 7th grade. We were talking about some drama at school and she told us that what other people think of us is none of our business and it just really stuck with me. I carried it with me through high school and realized that if I am proud of the things that I am doing and accomplishing then other people’s opinions shouldn’t mater.
We dig. Last thing, what does the world need to know about you?
I am very goal oriented and when I set a goal for myself I pursue it and won’t give up until I achieve it. I feel like you need to go for whatever it is you want in life and as long as you are making yourself happy that is all that matters. It goes back to my statement. Just go for the life you want.
We were inspired by Mariah’s statement and hope it can inspire more girls to stand up and be statement makers. Thanks again to everyone who entered our scholarship contest! Continue to rock out your statements and share some of them below in the comments!
30 January 2014
Category: Statement Makers
Nicole Antoinette wants to live in a world with less bullshit. She helps people change their stories – the ones they tell about themselves to themselves. She’s the founder of A Life Less Bullshit, an online powerhouse that provides simple, actionable and powerful strategies for ditching what you think you should want in favor of what you actually want. She’s been featured on sites like LifeHack and the Huffington Post UK, and recently we got to steal a few minutes of her time.
First off, love the name. Tell us the backstory of Lifelessbullshit.
Sure! LLB is more than my business, it’s my life philosophy. I want to cut through what people say we have to be, or what we have to do.
LLB really started to come about in 2011 when I made some pretty major life changes. I was the party girl who didn’t really do anything athletic; and I decided to quit drinking, pick up running, and blog about the messiness of it all. LLB really started to take shape through my desire to run a half-marathon. I blogged about the entire training process, and I refused to be fake about it. I shared every gritty detail and I found that people really connected with it.
So, how did LLB grow from a personal blog into your career?
People started following my journey and asking how they could do something similar. I woke up one morning and realized that my story could be about helping people believe a better story about themselves and I wanted to draw some lines around that.
I started with helping people who were beginners to the running game. I mean, real beginners. I partnered with a running coach and offered a beta training guide to help beginners train for and complete a significant race. Over a hundred people downloaded that first guide – and things have just continued to evolve and grow from there.
Why do you think people are so inspired by your story?
I think it has to do with reversing the Pinterest effect. There’s this tendency we have to want to show the best version of ourselves to the world – the neat, pretty, well put-together parts. That means, generally, that we talk about things after they’ve happened and we’ve had some time to put together our thoughts.
But for me, I want to make a conscious effort to talk about things as they happen. I find that it’s more empowering to talk through things than to share our results after we’ve accomplished something.
There’s a lot of vulnerability in your writing and approach to life. How do you handle the fear of failure when so many people are watching?
I think that we never stop being afraid of things and we never stop wanting to be liked by people. But, I’ve found that the more you allow yourself to be open and honest, you develop skills to control the fear, rather than letting it control you. I believe in taking 100% ownership of your life. We create our own reality based on our thoughts.
Running really taught me this. I was notoriously a procrastinator – you know, the type that would write papers the night before they were due. But you can’t wait when it comes to running. You can’t cram all your training miles in the night before a marathon and expect to finish that race. Running taught me how to say, “Hey, I’ll just do that” rather than hiding stalling or over-planning.
Running your own blog and business must be pretty overwhelming at times. How do you stay motivated and inspired through everything?
Hands down, by reminding the people that I serve everyday. The internet has this wonderful way of instantly connecting people – I write a post and publish it, and suddenly I’m talking with people through comments and social media to further their stories.
I ask myself every morning, “How can I help someone today?” It’s easy to get bogged down in faceless tasks and to-do lists, especially when you own your own business, but I’ve found that starting with this question gives heart to every single one of my tasks.
What’s the legacy you want to be remembered for? What’s the one statement that you want people to associate with your name:
What a great question to ask! It’s got to be something about the fact that we are all storytellers, and the most important story you tell is the story that you tell yourself about yourself.
You work a lot with dreamers. For those of us who are pursuing big dreams in our lives, what simple advice can you give?
Start with a tiny step. What’s one thing you can do in the next 24 hours to move your dream forward? Every step is important, and we never really know how we feel about something until we try it. Big sexy dreams happen one unsexy step at a time.
Your job seems like a lot of fun! What’s been the most rewarding moment for you since creating LLB?
Oh, when that first round of half marathoners completed their first races. When you do the impossible thing in your life, everything else suddenly opens up. Watching those runners struggle through the process, fight through the doubt, and then cross the finish line – that was really incredible.
What’s next for Nicole and Life Less Bullshit?
The next big thing for both myself and LLB happens in 2015. My friend Liz and I are going to run from LA to New York City in five months. Right now, this seems totally impossible and there are a lot of things to figure out between now and then. But, my hope is that this becomes a community-supported kind of thing where I can meet lots of people and share lots of stories along the way.
Nicole is making a statement by help people ditch what they think they want in favor of what they actually want out of life. What is it that you actually want out of life?
28 January 2014
Category: Statement Makers
Ashley Ambirge is the witty and creative CEO of House of Moxie, Inc. and founder of The Middle Finger Project Blog. Through The Middle Finger Project she has helped small business owners take their first steps toward success with some encouragement, humor, and a dash of sarcasm. Recently she took time out of her busy jet setting schedule to sit down and talk to us. Here is a bit about her inspiring story.
What inspired you to start your own business?
Well, after being at my first job for a while I got a big head and realized I could do copy writing on my own so I decided to quit my job and start my own copy-writing business. I failed miserably.
So, I went back to work for an ad sales company. After I had been there for a couple years I starting getting a big head again and felt like I wanted to do more. My only purpose there was to make other people money and I wanted something more rewarding and meaningful than that. So I finally decided to quit my job again and that’s how The Middle Finger Project began and now it has grown into a million dollar online business.
Love that name, by the way. What exactly is The Middle Finger Project?
The Middle Finger Project is a place for anyone who is thinking about starting their own business or wants to live life more but are too scared to take those first steps or aren’t quite sure how to start. We serve as a community and support for everyone wanting to take those next steps.
You’re awesome at names. You also recently launched a new site called Life Hooky – what exactly is that?
I love to travel and did a lot of research on the positive effects that traveling has on a person and it truly helps people grow. Everyone kept coming to me saying they wished they could travel as much as I did, so I wanted to give people a way to do that and put their money where their mouth is.
It seems that travel is a big deal to you. How has travel impacted your life?
The other week someone asked me what it is to live a life with purpose and my response to that was to live a life ON purpose. We can get so caught up with just going with the flow that we forget to live our life and get caught up in every one else’s flow of life. With traveling you are forced to make different things a priority and get out and see things that you normally wouldn’t go and see. It truly just enhances your life a lot.
What is your end goal or your mission for all the work you do?
This is going to sound childish but there is one thing that ties everything together and that is at the end of the day I just want people to have fun! It’s not the end of the world if something doesn’t work. You can recover from that. We take life so seriously and I just want people to have some fun.
I know that you have overcome some adversity and failure; did you ever consider giving up?
No, I never thought about giving up. The first time I failed I just got pissed off. And then in the beginning when TMF wasn’t doing well I got pissed off again and realized I was done. I was done screwing around and I was going to get serious. So I decided to move to Chile and started doing things the right way. As a case study, I updated my progress week by week and made it public for people to follow. It gave me motivation because I couldn’t slack off. And I’m actually in the process of turning those weekly updates into a book to help others who are getting started see what worked and what didn’t work.
What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?
Proving it to myself. I have to prove myself every single day. There is never a day where there is not a single thing on my to-do list and everything is constantly changing. I have to keep improving and prove to myself that I can do it. Keep making your goals bigger and bigger and keep going after them.
We are looking for statement makers. What’s the one statement that you would encourage girls to live by?
Create a platform – the world is crazy and loud and competitive and you have to make yourself known.
What’s next for you and the future of TMF or Life Hooky?
Right now I’m obsessed with expanding the platform and optimizing and creating that community feel. I want TMF to be a household brand.
Ashley is making a loud statement that everyone should do what they want and have fun doing it. Because life is short and we should enjoy it while we can. What have you been holding back on doing?
10 January 2014
Category: Statement Makers
Erin Hoppe was recently recognized in our hometown of Columbus OH with the Emerging Arts Leader Award. She serves as the Executive Director for the VSA – a community of inspired artists that seek to bridge art and disability. Spend three minutes around her and you’re inspired. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Erin, and here’s her story.
When did you first become interested in art?
I guess you could say as a kid. I was always kind of a nerd. I’m not really into creating my own art and never really was but I have always had an appreciation for it. My parents raised me that way.
You are the Executive Director for an organization called VSA. What exactly does the organization do?
It was founded in 1986 as a non-profit organization and we now have 34 locations throughout the U.S. and are an international organization. We work to advocate for accessibility and equality, advance careers in the arts, help communities, and improve academic achievements of Ohio’s students through art integration.
So, what exactly do you do?!
We provide professional opportunities for artists by helping to set up booths at local events so they can sell their work without having to pay the fees that would keep them from doing it on their own. We have art education residencies and we’ll have master artists come in and teach students geometry through dance or how information can be presented visually, verbally, or kinesthetically.
What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?
In the fall we had our 2nd Annual film festival called Reel Abilities, which started in New York and shows international award winning films about people with disabilities or by people with disabilities and then we held workshops and panels to go along with the event.
What’s your biggest challenge right now?
Well I’m the only full-time staff there so I wear a lot of different hats. And I don’t really look good in hats so I’m trying to make it work. I wish I could have a larger team to work with but the funding just isn’t available right now so until then it’s a lot of self-motivation and working with a small team.
Did you always know you wanted a career in the arts?
No, not at all. I attended college in California, where I’m from, and originally thought I was going to school to become a pharmacist because that’s what my whole family does. But once I started I realized that was not for me. Then around graduation my mom began asking me what I was going to do and I still had no idea. It wasn’t until I talked to one of my professors that he introduced me to art administration. So I moved to D.C. after graduation for an internship and realized it was a perfect fit.
Has this job changed your perspective on your career or life?
A lot of people don’t realize that art is so much more than painting or theater; it is writing, or architecture, or even branding. I always say we should shut down everything that has to do with the arts for 2 days so people can see how important it really is. We wouldn’t have any music, our streets would be a mess because we wouldn’t have the architecture behind them; everything we do and use has some form of art behind it.
This job specifically has really opened my eyes and changed the way I looked at the world. I never thought I knew anyone with a disability but it doesn’t always have to be an obvious disability. I realized a disability could be anything and happen to anyone at anytime. And art feeds your soul, so sometimes we need to not focus on all the big issues like implementing healthcare programs.
What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?
I love the advocating aspect of it. Going to meetings and talking about why art matters and can make a difference even if people aren’t always interested. It’s important to be involved and you can advocate every single day in different ways.
What advice do you have for young women today that are trying to make a difference?
I guess I would say if a job seems too hard just go for it anyway. If it’s what you really want to do just go for it. It’s essential to take part in democracy so get involved.
You recently were awarded the 2013 Emerging Arts Leader in Central Ohio by the Greater Columbus Arts Council, how was that experience?
Yeah it was definitely an honor. I’m very humble and don’t like talking about myself but it was nice to be recognized.
Erin is making a statement that art should be accessible to everyone; that at the core, everyone is an artist. What kind of artist are you?
17 December 2013
Category: Statement Makers
Customized Girl is seeking out “custom girls” – women who are doing extraordinary or interesting things. This month, we caught up with Beth Masters. Beth runs the Dikatole Scholarship Fund – a non-profit organization she established to help children get out of the dangerous squatter camps of Johannesburg. Here’s her story:
Where, or what, is Dikatole?
Dikatole is located in South Africa on the outskirts of Johannesburg. It is considered a squatter camp and is riddled with drugs, crime, and extreme poverty. [Squatter camps] are for people with nowhere to go, and unfortunately many orphans are forced to call squatter camps “home.”
What is life like in Dikatole?
The first thing you will notice is the smell – an overwhelmingly terrible smell of raw sewage and garbage. The streets are covered in sewage, and there is garbage everywhere. I’ve seen a stray dog being torn apart by another dog. Drugs and violence are predominant – it’s just NO place for children to live.
How did you become so involved with children in South Africa?
It began in 2006 when we made our first trip to South Africa for my son’s (Jake) high school project. While we were over there we saw a small child crying because he simply wanted a toy but there were no toys for him to play with. We realized we could bring these kids joy by supplying a simple toy so we decided to go around and start handing out beanie babies to AIDS orphans in South Africa. We later took it a step further and began throwing pizza parties for the children as well.
What were the children like when you first met them?
At first they were very shy because they weren’t used to being spoken to, hugged, or even read to. They needed to be socialized. One of the women who ran a nursery in Dikatole referred to them as kittens that needed to be loved and cared for.
How did this transition into the Dikatole Scholarship Fund?
After one of the pizza parties on our way back to the airport we saw a boy walking home with one of our bright party bags but he still had a look of desperation on his face. He was walking “home” with his feet in raw sewage. This image haunted Jake and I because we realized this boy had nothing to go home to. On that flight home we decided we needed to stop giving out toys and start giving kids an education to benefit their future.
Why did you decide education was a solution?
These kids needed something more and we felt like we needed to do more and we could do more. They needed a chance to better their future in hopes of getting them out of Dikatole. We just knew that education was one of the most important things we could give them.
Are there public schools in Dikatole? Why not just enroll these children into these schools?
There are public schools in Dikatole, but they are worthless. They are government run schools with no teachers, no books, and no supplies. If children are really going to overcome these circumstances, they have to get into good schools. That’s become our goal … getting these children into great schools.
So what is next for these children?
We decided we needed to get these children to a day school outside of Dikatole. When we started we made a pact with 8 children that if they stayed out of trouble, worked hard, and did well in school we would be there to shake their hand at their high school graduation. This day school wasn’t going to be easy though. They would have to walk 2 miles to school everyday and it was going to cost about $400-500 a year for each student. But we knew we could do it and they wanted to do it. We quickly saw that this day school was a good start but we needed to do more. We needed to get the children out of Dikatole completely. They couldn’t go to a day school and come back to Dikatole with all of the violence and drugs. It is especially bad for the girls because they are endanger of being raped or trafficked. So we needed to raise the bar, from beanie babies to boarding school.
How many children have you helped so far?
When we initially started we made a pact with the 8 children who are now about to enter 7th grade. We since then have expanded to 15 children who are slating for boarding school and have an estimated 9 children to actually start boarding school within the next year.
How else have you impacted these children’s lives?
One of our boys, Andrew, was tragically hit by a car and put into a government run hospital with no doctors, no medication, and no help. He was basically left alone grasping for his life. We got him out of this hospital and into a private hospital where he was able to get the care he needed to save his life. We also have provided an eye surgery for one of our girls who had a vision problem that was affecting her education and life.
What have been some of your favorite/most memorable moments?
Well I’ll tell you my funniest moment and my most memorable moment. The funniest moment is when I asked one of our boys if he remembered our promise about graduation and his was reply was “yes” but he was concerned that I would be in a wheel chair when the time came. These kids aren’t used to seeing someone as old as I am. I’m only in my 50’s but they are used to their parents passing at an early age.
My most memorable moment was when NBC was filming our project and they asked one of the boys to tell them something about me that they (NBC) didn’t know and the boy responded by saying that I am a great mother. This really touched me because even though I only see them 3-4 times a year, they think of me as their mother figure. It truly made me realize the difference I am making in their lives.
You’ve talked about so many challenges and hard things that you’ve seen. Do you ever consider quitting or giving up?
No. Never. I’ve cried a lot, but I never considered quitting. I consider these kids a part of my family and think of them as my own children. You would never just quit on your own child.
What advice do you have for women today?
Your journey will never look like what you thought it would. It will always continue to change and morph. You may not know what your journey is but just go with it, roll your sleeves up and do something! You have to just get out there, observe your surroundings, and find things that need to be done. Your message and your purpose will come to you.
Beth Masters is a truly Customized Girl making a statement in our world. What questions do you have for her? Ask them in our comments section below!
And, check out her recent interview on the today show
6 December 2013
Category: Statement Makers
Customized Girl is seeking out women who are doing extraordinary and interesting things. Last month, we were thrilled to work with Katie Brennan who is the Assistant Director of Fundraising Events at the OSUCCC-James. Katie was our go to person for our fundraiser with the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.
Here’s her story:
How did you get involved with the Fundraising events at The James Ohio State University Wexiner Medical Center?
In 2006 I was diagnosed with Melanoma Cancer and was treated by the OSUCCC-James. I have held the passion, mission and amazing dedication and talent that The James provides close to my heart ever since and when the opportunity to work in fundraising came along, it truly was a wonderful fit.
What is the best thing about working with The Spielman Fund?
The people. Everyone has an incredible passion, determination and desire to help us in this fight against breast cancer and being able to work with these individuals every day is incredible.
You raise funds for other organizations in addition to the Stefanie Spielman Fund, right? Can you tell us a little about those organizations?
The Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research is actually a fund within Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (the OSUCCC-James) and there are many other disease specific cancer research and support funds that are included in the various fundraising by our Community Partners.
At Customized Girl, we sell a lot of custom t-shirts. If you had one statement to share with the world, a statement you would wear on your chest, what would it be?
“Hope is a good thing, it maybe the best of things…and no good thing ever dies.”
Thanks for being a part of our Statement Maker interview series, Katie. And thanks for making a difference in the world!