Meet this month’s featured Girls Inc. Indy volunteer, Kay Insley! She is a feature writer for us this month and we are so grateful for her reflections on a recent volunteer opportunity with us:

Reflections on Volunteering with Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis

Written by Kay Insley, Volunteer

The late afternoon sunlight trickled through the historic downtown coffee shop. It danced over my mug of matcha as I sunk into a metal chair, looking out the window and reminiscing over the sweet days of summer that never seem to last long enough. As I breathed in the crisp air of the upcoming season from the slightly cracked window, my daydream was sweetly interrupted by a familiar greeting. I watched as one of my dear friends glided toward me, carefully placing her latte on the table to give me a hug. She’s the kind of woman whose consistent optimism produces an ever present glow that exudes from her. As she sat across from me, she told me of a recent volunteer opportunity she had pursued called Girls Inc. I watched her hazel eyes glisten brighter with every story she shared. She quickly interrupted herself and said, “You’d be great at this, you should look into it.”

As spring approached I found myself sitting across from another woman I would quickly call friend. An ambitious 21-year-old named Courtney, who had graduated college early, and was a few months into her marketing career. We had been paired together to start our first Girls Inc. session titled “Redefining Beauty” and it felt like a match made in co-facilitator heaven. We carefully and delicately laid out every detail of our first session. I think we were both aware that 5th and 6th grade girls could sometimes be a force to be reckoned with and we wanted to be prepared.

“Hi, Ms. Kay. How are you!?” said a polo clad girl in a cheery voice as she placed her lunch tray on the desk. That greeting happened my third week in, and every week until our final session. I tried not to express my thrill from those simple words. Much like I imagine a mom when she asks her pre-teen how her day was at school, and she responds with something other than “fine.” But I knew what it meant. She wanted to be there. Over the six weeks volunteering, Courtney and I had done our best to fervently teach that true beauty comes from within. In a Photoshop world where girls are consistently bombarded with faux images of perfection, this was no easy feat. However, on our last day as the girls went around the circle sharing something beautiful about their neighbor, I felt as though we had been successful. A good friend, kind, funny, intelligent were some of the descriptions that were shared. Descriptions of beauty that were a far cry from our first session where clothing, hair, and attention from boys were the main topics. It sparked such a joy in my heart that even in six short weeks such incredible impact could be made.

I thought in my seniority I was teaching these girls about beauty, but in reality, they had been my teacher. As I drove away from my last session, my mind raced through the details of every week. I thought about how in week two I practically ran to my car, so I could get in without anyone seeing me sob. We had closed out our session by playing a game. One girl shared that she would buy her family food if she had a million dollars, another said she’d bail her dad out of jail. I’m positive they didn’t realize it at the time, but their vulnerability and braveness to share their stories was the pinnacle and the purest form of beauty. A beauty that I nor anyone else could ever teach. It came from within.

Six weeks. Six weeks is all it took for these girls to teach me. Every week they forced me to examine my views of beauty as a 33-year-old woman. To take a look at what I believed and what I had received as facts about myself over the years. Human interactions and experiences that had the ability to define my worth. Interactions and experiences that crept into the corners of my mind and innermost depths of my heart; settling and quietly stealing from me were illuminated. These 11 and 12-year-old girls provided the opportunity for me to purposely examine and concisely eliminate wrong thoughts about my beauty that I didn’t even know existed.

As the school year comes to an end most of the girls from my first session will be transitioning to middle school. They will wade through the uneasy currents of their teenage years, and without a doubt, face obstacles and challenges that will test their views and identity of beauty. No matter what journey life takes them on, I hope they remember the Girls Inc. motto. They are strong, smart, and bold.