Impact takes time- I thought that it would catch on quickly by the masses because I was so passionate about empowering girls. I didn’t know I would have to work this hard to create social change and impact girls beyond my classroom. I now know that any impact is valuable, even if it’s with one girl, and that impact can have a ripple effect on spreading positivity and change. It takes time.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Jones.
Melissa Jones is the founder of Girls Positivity Club, a youth organization dedicated to advancing the confidence, self-awareness, and power of every girl. Melissa believes every girl deserves a space to shine and a platform to spark their influence. She has been motivating and cultivating connections through her clubs and teaching career among hundreds of girls and providing families with resources she has created through over 22,680 hours of experience.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was a happy and confident child until I was eight years old. I had a best friend who lived across the street. I loved my school and have happy memories as a carefree child. Everything changed when my neighborhood became dangerous in my parents’ eyes, and they moved us to a new part of the city, a safe, suburban community close to my new school. The same confidence and sense of belonging did not move with me. The kids were different, and I suddenly realized I didn’t fit into their friendships and clicks. I remember crying a lot at my desk, and although I was in a loving home, my parents didn’t know how to help me gain confidence and understand my worth.
I spent most of my growing up years comparing myself to other girls who were better than me in one way or another in my mind. I focused so much on not being good enough that the feeling rooted itself deep inside me and was my biggest struggle through my teen years and even well into adulthood.
Becoming a teacher was a way to motivate and impact kids. With over 22 years of experience in the classroom, I had a realization that there was a common need among girls in every school setting (rural, urban, suburban, and private). I noticed a common theme: many girls lacked the same confidence and self-worth I lacked as a child. They needed a positive connection around a common goal of empowerment, so I started being intentional about teaching the girls in my fourth-grade class at lunchtime personal growth techniques in mindset, confidence, and creating a community of powerful girls (Girls Positivity Club).
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
One of the most interesting stories is when I tagged a well-known graphic novelist, Maria Scrivan, of the Nat Enough series in one of my Instagram posts. A girl in my group with three learning disabilities, including dyslexia and dysgraphia, made a significant breakthrough by reading her books. The messages of self-belief and pushing through fear Maria creates in her graphic novels connects perfectly with my mission, so it was a natural fit to recommend the girls read her books. I posted that the girl had been reading under the covers with a flashlight at night and that her book was the first unassigned book in her life she had ever finished. Maria commented that she would be happy to schedule a virtual Q and A with the girls in my club. It was a fantastic moment for my girls because they genuinely felt like VIPs, and Maria got to see firsthand the impact she was having on a group of girl readers. My group felt seen and empowered to ask questions and have opportunities that most kids will not experience outside of an author visit at school in a large setting. It was one of the most exciting experiences so far with GPC.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made a lot of funny mistakes, but one stands out with running Zoom club sessions. I had 30 girls, and I decided to utilize breakout rooms to have a smaller group experience. I assumed they all knew what to do, which is simply press the button that says, “join the room.” There were a pair of sisters who consistently couldn’t get into the breakout room and also couldn’t unmute themselves no matter what I tried. They could hear me, but I couldn’t listen to them. Finally, one day when they couldn’t join their room, they decided to use charades for me to guess their responses to the topic questions the other rooms were discussing. It was hilarious because they would act it out or write clue words when I asked each question. They were so animated, and it added a level of fun that was unlike any other breakout room. We were laughing, and they loved seeing if I could guess correctly. One of the girls figured out how to fix the issue in the settings, but it was a fun way to make the best out of a situation that could have been a frustration. I learned a new way to communicate with the girls they thought was fun, and it taught me what to prepare for tech issues. It’s funny because kids always find a way to make something work, and I loved how it ended up being fun. When the other girls came back to the main room, we demonstrated the charades version, and they loved it and ended up incorporating the activity into our club, so it was a win-win.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Girls Positivity Club is making a significant social impact because we are dedicated to advance each girl’s confidence, self-awareness, and power. We inspire girls to see their greatness and potential for living their dream. We create an intentional, uplifting environment that enables girls to feel fully seen and capable of world change. Our goal is to increase girls’ confidence and influence by providing unmatched opportunities for world-class networking, access, and visibility. We elevate girls by providing a trusted network of inspiring relationships and activities that encourage dreams and self-awareness. And we enable girls to live their best lives by empowering them with positivity, confidence, and influence. We believe every girl deserves a space to shine and a platform to spark their impact.
So many times, parents or schools wait until there is a crisis or massive cry for help, and I believe that girls need the support and belonging to a positive community that is proactive instead of reactive. If we invest in our girls early, then they will grow up to be young women who are confident, ambitious, and become the leaders in their communities and the workforce.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Fortunately, I have many examples to choose from, but one girl stands out in particular. She was part of my original group of girls. On the outside, she was a natural leader and a confident girl. Still, as I got to know her more in clubs and coaching, I learned that she had a lot of anxiety and stress and struggled in school confidence because of 3 learning disabilities, including dyslexia. She was often worried about what others thought of her in class when she raised her hand and worried about things entirely out of her control because of her big heart. When she had stress, she didn’t know how to handle it. Through GPC, she learned about positive affirmations, techniques to slow her racing mind down, ways to release thoughts that were creating a “negative tornado,” tips in assertiveness, and exploring new creative outlets for releasing her anxiety and stress. She now has a list of tools to choose from to handle any situation that has become automatic, and she knows now what helps her most. She is a leader in our community and often shares her strategies and tips to help other girls manage strong feelings.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
1) Leadership opportunities for girls– There need to be more opportunities supporting girls getting experience in leadership at a young age. Having programs where girls can experience making decisions and having leadership roles making decisions that positively impact their peers, school, and community would be powerful and helpful for girls to see the immediate impact of their influence.
2) Feature girls in the media– In the public eye, there needs to be more features of girls who are “the ordinary girl with extraordinary ideas.” Many girls have ideas to share, and organizations and councils consistently featuring community impact with young female leaders would plant the seed of unlimited possibilities. A platform highlighting girls in the public eye would help girls envision the potential of their impact.
3) Commercials/PSAs on social media and TV streaming featuring girls– Inspiring commercials and motivational stories featuring girls on social media and media girls are consuming would be a great place to start. If girls have to watch commercials anyway, it would be powerful to feature amazing women and girls with empowering messages that could significantly inspire them to see their potential.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I think the great John Maxwell says it best, “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” This definition of leadership is what I’m teaching the girls in my clubs: being leaders and positively influencing their peers and family members. Leadership ignites a passion for helping others, and the act of passing on their knowledge and gifts to others impacts our community of girls. A leader has a positive influence on the Girls Positivity Club community. Leadership in our clubs can look like anything from leading an activity in a small group to modeling positive behavior for friends and classmates or leading a change in her school. To me, a leader has others in mind before herself and wants to help make positive change.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Impact takes time- I thought that it would catch on quickly by the masses because I was so passionate about empowering girls. I didn’t know I would have to work this hard to create social change and impact girls beyond my classroom. I now know that any impact is valuable, even if it’s with one girl, and that impact can have a ripple effect on spreading positivity and change. It takes time.
2) Invest in personal growth — To start a business from scratch, you have to have the emotional strength and the mindset tools to be in it for the long game. There are challenges simply to keep going when it gets hard, and having the means to combat limiting beliefs is crucial. Knowing how to give yourself a pep talk, to keep going when you fall short, and to hang on to mantras that get you out of doubt is a lifeline.
3) Remember your why- For me, it helps to think of real girls and their stories to do this work, and it is what I would remind myself never to lose sight of at any phase of this work. On those hard days where I don’t feel like I’m making a significant impact, I go back to one girl I know I’ve helped. I ask myself what “she” needs right now, and that’s how I create my content and plan relevant club activities. It’s what is most important.
4) Surround yourself with people further along- I didn’t know how to do this at the beginning beyond listening to podcasts, which I think was a great start. The enormous growth I have made was when I joined a professional community with extraordinary leaders “out of my league.” I have learned and grown more in this group and have made more progress in a few months than I did in an entire year of figuring it out on my own. I would tell myself to invest in those experts early, soak up their knowledge, and take action with it.
5) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable- In the beginning, everything is new, and you’re uncomfortable all the time. I would tell myself to get comfortable with that feeling because it means authentic learning is taking place. Every time I write an article, do a podcast, do a tv segment, try a new marketing strategy, try new activities with the girls, and so on, I’m uncomfortable. I do it anyway. I make it a goal to feel some kind of discomfort every day to grow, and I know it’s how I’m making consistent progress.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊
I believe every girl deserves a space to shine and a platform to spark her influence. The movement would advance girls’ confidence, self-awareness, and power. The movement’s goal would be to highlight powerful girls to help them see that the power is within them to dream big and see their positive impact on themselves and other girls. It would be a ‘pass it on’ idea where one girl shows her power then highlights another girl’s power. This movement would be visual and in the mainstream media to create a ripple effect of empowering influence. My hope would be for girls to see other girls confident and spreading positive messages about their diverse power, which would create a community of powerful girls who are “seen.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s hard to choose just one, but one of my favorites by Steve Jobs is, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” The lack of confidence I struggled with growing up and into adulthood, the hardships I faced with my dad’s brain cancer, the moments authority figures told me that I wasn’t smart enough to go to college. All the big and little moments of eve growth have all shaped who I am today. Looking back, all of the hard things and the lessons I have learned have been fuel for my obsessive drive and passion for empowering girls. They have been the dots that have connected me to doing this critical work. Sometimes the dots don’t make any sense until later, and this idea helps me have hope and faith to change the future.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 😊
Jamie Kern Lima is such an iconic social impact hero of mine. She changed the beauty industry from being catered to people with flawless skin to real women of all skin tones, types, and ages. Jamie took a bold move to show her flaws for the sake of helping women feel confident. She is such a giving soul, and I feel like she would be so incredible and down to earth. I can only imagine the positive impact of sitting down and having a meal with her. It would be life-changing.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to spread my mission to advance every girl’s confidence, self-awareness, and power. Girls need to see their greatness, and you’ve helped me spread that message!