Guiding Girls Toward Success Through Mentorship

In a world where gender disparities persist, mentorship is a powerful tool in guiding girls toward success. By connecting girls with positive role models and mentors, we can empower them to overcome obstacles, build confidence, and pursue their dreams in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Mentorship has been a game changer in our work to level the playing field for girls. In this post, we’ll share how we believe mentorship can shape the future of the next generation of women leaders.

The Gender Gap in STEM

Women represent 50% of the U.S. population, yet they make up less than one-fourth of the nation's STEM workforce. This gender gap is evident from an early age, with girls as young as six starting to believe they aren't smart or capable enough. Without positive women role models in STEM, they struggle to envision themselves in these careers. Mentorship plays a crucial role in breaking this cycle by providing girls with inspiring examples of successful women in STEM.

The Power of Sport

Play Like a Girl leverages the transferable skills middle school girls gain from sports to give them a competitive edge in the classroom and beyond. Sports build confidence, teach girls to collaborate and compete, and instill important life skills such as perseverance and resilience. By combining sports with mentorship, girls are empowered to pursue their passions and excel in male-dominated fields like STEM.

Empowering through STEM Education

STEM education is essential in empowering girls with real-world experience and exposure. However, nurturing young women towards a career in STEM requires more than just education. Mentorship is the missing piece of the puzzle that provides guidance, support, and belief in a girl's abilities. By connecting girls with mentors who have succeeded in STEM, they can see firsthand that they too can achieve greatness in these fields.

Creating Belief through Mentorship

Mentorship creates belief in girls that they can be and do anything they dream. By having a role model who has walked a similar path, girls gain the confidence to pursue their ambitions and overcome any barriers they may face. Mentorship provides a safe space for girls to ask questions, seek advice, and receive guidance, ultimately paving the way for their success.

How You Can Make a Difference

Closing the gender gap in STEM is a team sport, and you can play a crucial role in leveling the playing field for girls. By joining the Play Like a Girl community, you can become a role model and inspire girls to pursue their dreams. Additionally, you can sign up to be a mentor to a girl in need, providing guidance and support on her journey towards success.

The power of mentorship in guiding girls towards success cannot be understated. Mentorship empowers girls (and women!) to overcome obstacles, build confidence, and pursue their dreams in STEM and anything else. By connecting girls with positive women role models and mentors, we're changing the future for the next generation.

Join the Play Like a Girl movement and help empower girls to become the leaders of tomorrow. To learn more about the transformative power of mentorship and join the Play Like a Girl community, partner with Play Like a Girl.

Together, let's guide girls toward success and create a more equitable future for all.

Meet + Mentor Tulsa Teaches Girls to Fish

Morgan Prater and employee volunteers lead Meet + Mentor Tulsa powered by Academy Sports + Outdoors 

Play Like a Girl’s Meet + Mentor events are ongoing celebrations to shine a light on empowering women role models in an effort to inspire young girls to explore their limitless potential while learning about incredible women who helped pave the way for them.

We know that girls can’t be what they don’t see. That’s why we see role models as essential in a young woman’s life. Role models also are critical to breaking stereotypes and challenging barriers to gender equality. In most cases, role models are accessible family members, teachers, neighbors, and even strangers who directly build the aspirations and ambitions of girls and young women at every stage of their education and career paths. 

As a key part of our ongoing work, we leverage our Meet + Mentor program to introduce middle school girls to women from all walks of life to show them they can be and do anything they can imagine. On June 29, a highly motivated and vivacious group of middle school students took part in the debut Meet + Mentor day camp powered by Academy Sports + Outdoors at Zebco, a fishing rod and reel manufacturer and product testing facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Inspiring local girls to dream bigger, Zebco was transformed into a mentoring lab designed to encourage students to pursue a future in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Starting with a Lizzo-inspired welcome and girl power playlist blasting in the background, Zebco employee volunteers accompanied the girls through special fishing-related activities designed to show students the unlimited possibilities in sport and STEM, stressing the fact that STEM is everywhere and is in everything.

Our CEO Dr. Kim led an interactive confidence-building experience to help girls tap into their own ingenuity and creativity. A panel discussion featuring accomplished women in the fishing industry followed.

After breaking into small groups for a more in-depth mentoring moment with the panelists, students had an opportunity to work with a role model during a hands-on working session where they designed their own paper boats and, later, tested them for buoyancy (or the ability to float in water).

In addition, the Zebco testing lab was used to introduce students to the design and testing of fishing reels, rods and other accessories.

To bring it all together, the girls enjoyed a short chartered bus ride to Oklahoma Aquarium for a fishing expedition with former collegiate athlete and fishing guide Morgan Prater and volunteers from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The Meet + Mentor events are ongoing celebrations to spark participants' interest in sport and STEM, while inspiring their limitless potential, and bringing together Academy employees, brand ambassadors and corporate volunteers.

Participating students will be featured in a three-part YouTube series showcased across Academy’s social channels late this summer.

The next event will take place in Memphis on Tuesday, July 6.

Benefits of Mentoring for Girls and Young Women

Pairing girls with mentors early on paves the way for a brighter future

Before Katherine Johnson began calculating trips to the moon for NASA, she had mentors.

Johnson, whose story was immortalized in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures,” was inspired to turn her knack for numbers into a groundbreaking career as a research mathematician by two mentors. The first was her geometry teacher Angie Turner King, who nurtured the preteen’s interest in math and modeled what was possible for her. Another mentor was Johnson’s college professor W.W. Schieffelin Claytor, who created advanced math courses for her and encouraged her to push beyond the boundaries of her race and gender. These mentors helped change the trajectory of Johnson’s life and enabled her to break into a field with few women at the time, where she made history for her contributions to space exploration.

This is just one example of the power of mentorship. Research shows the many benefits mentoring can have for girls (and boys), from improved school attendance and lower dropout rates to higher rates of graduation, college enrollment and higher aspirations overall. But the greatest impact of mentoring comes from showing students what’s possible for their lives. 

Ask any little girl what she wants to be when she grows up, and you’ll hear a variety of answers: teacher, nurse, dancer, veterinarian, etc. But how often do you hear answers like research scientist, engineer, computer programmer or company CEO? This may be because girls envision their future based on the role models they can see. If they can see it, they’re more likely to believe they can be it. 

Closing the Gender Gap with Mentors 

Though women have made tremendous strides in the workplace, even since Katherine Johnson’s day, they still lag behind men in salaries and opportunities.

Women make about 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, with women of color making even less. They are also broadly underrepresented in many senior leadership roles across industries, according to a 2020 Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey and While the number of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list reached a record high of 41 this year, women make up just eight percent of those leading Fortune 500 companiesand only two are Black women. 

Lack of ambition is not to blame. Women are more likely than men to aspire to be in management roles, but they have fewer sponsors in the C-suite championing their advancement, the McKinsey study notes. 

This brings us back to mentors. They are key to leveling the playing field for girls of all backgrounds and closing the gender gap that keeps so many capable young women from advancing up the career ladder. 

A study of female engineering students showed that those who were assigned female mentors experienced more belonging, motivation and confidenceand were more likely to remain in the field, according to the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). Individuals with mentors typically go on to perform better at their jobs, earn higher salaries and land promotions faster than those without them, other studies show. 

Linda Hope, who runs a successful business for Beautycounter, which sells safer skin care and cosmetics directly to women, credits her success as an entrepreneur to the wisdom and guidance she gained from her mentors. 

“One of the greatest values of surrounding yourself with great mentors is that you can learn in less than an hour what it took them a lifetime to figure out,” she says. 

Value of Starting Early 

Mentorship needs to happen long before women enter the workplace. At Play Like a Girl, we believe it should start as early as middle school when girls are beginning to form their opinions about the world around them and contemplate what they want to do in the future. 

This is especially important for girls from less affluent backgrounds, who often lack the opportunities others have to network with successful individuals who can help them jump-start their careers. 

Whatever their background or education, one thing is certain: The sooner girls are exposed to and have a chance to learn from positive female role models across a variety of roles and fields, the better prepared they will be to think imaginatively and limitlessly about their future and tackle the obstacles they encounter with confidence and courage.

Mentoring is a cornerstone of our work at Play Like a Girl. Over the past 16 years, we have reached over 25,000 girls through mentorship, summer camps, field trips, sports outings, virtual activities and more. Through our Meet + Mentor program, we match middle school girls (ages 10-13) with women working in STEM+ jobs throughout all industries. Our mentors support these girls in their efforts to develop the academic and life skills necessary to succeed. The latest Meet + Mentor program just wrapped up at the end of May, and we’re eager to share the stories of the girls and women who were impacted by the power of mentorship, so stay tuned for more.

In Tulsa, Memphis or Houston/Katy this June or July? Then, register middle school girls in your life for our free Meet + Mentor day camps in a city near you. Visit to sign up today.

STEM for Girls: Reimagining the Future

When girls engage in STEM, everyone wins.

There’s a gap between girls and boys when it comes to their interest in and their pursuit of STEM subjects. No surprise here, but there’s also a gap in the number of women and men in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields like coding and cybersecurity among others. Why do you think that is?

An ill-informed argument might suggest achievement: “Boys are just better at STEM subjects than girls.” No, that’s not it. A large body of research shows that girls perform as well as boys in math. And in fact, middle school girls pass algebra at higher rates than boys. 

Another misguided position might point to the toys we give our kids when they’re young. But it’s way too simplistic to say the STEM gap exists because girls play dress-up with dolls and boys play with things that go vroom. That’s giving a bit too much weight to playthings. (And come on, we all know that Barbie has worked in basically every STEM field over the years!)

So why is there a STEM gap for girls? It doesn’t have to do with the test scores or favorite toys—it’s stereotypes, cultural norms and societal pressures that make girls think they can’t dream big. Girls aren’t less capable than boys. But the world around them can make them think that’s true. The media reinforces it. Books on library shelves don't exactly refute it. Even grown-ups who love the girls in their lives can unwittingly recreate this horrible untruth.

Ask any kid to draw a mathematician and you’ll probably get a picture of a man (and he’ll probably be wearing glasses). This is a very basic way of pointing out that, historically and culturally speaking, we collectively see these types of jobs as being held by men.  

“The self-limiting beliefs these stereotypes create can snowball to affect a girl’s trajectory and future career choices,” according to Barbie’s Dream Gap Project. “They may even discourage women to pursue prestigious careers, especially in fields that value brilliance.” 

And therein lies the benefit of STEM for girls and the answer to “Why STEM for girls?” Because when girls engage in STEM, everyone wins.

What happens when girls love STEM, too

The benefits of STEM for girls are far-reaching. For starters, engaging girls in STEM can help stimulate their imaginations and foster creativity. Yes, many different forms of play can do that but STEM encourages girls to flex these important muscles through the lens of discovery.

Exposure to STEM also can help boost girls’ confidence and resilience. The more girls explore STEM subjects and are exposed to female role models in STEM fields, the more confident they become that STEM is a perfect fit for them. Resilience, meanwhile, is tied to the experimentation side of STEM. The process of designing and building, testing and failing (the engineering design process, by the way), helps instill the important lesson that failing is OK and actually helps lead to success.

This is a Play Like a Girl principle our mentors teach girls like Carwyn, Maria, and Arianna and her sister in our Meet + Mentor program. They know that failing means you're trying. So keep trying. And also keep learning. Because the more you learn from your failures, the closer you come to your successes. 

When girls engage in STEM, they’re also more creative thinkers, better problem solvers and are more confident in their own abilities. And those qualities will transfer to their adult lives—whether they pursue careers in STEM fields or not. These skills will naturally filter into every college classroom, locker room and C-suite.

STEM for girls and the Play Like a Girl mission 

At Play Like a Girl, we envision a world where the playing field is level and every girl reaches her full potential. We deliver programs to leverage the skills girls gain from sports to propel them into male-dominated careers in STEM. Our programs include girls-only camps and sports clinics, hands-on STEM education, makerspace workshops, mentoring opportunities with inspiring female role models, corporate field trips, and powerful girl-centered messaging.

When we give our girls the opportunity to meet a female engineer or a female bat conservationist like If/Then Ambassador and Play Like a Girl mentor Dr. Kristen Lear, we’re not discounting the hard work done by men in those same roles. Instead, we’re saying, “If you can see it, you can be it.”

When we get a group of girls together to geek out over a STEM topic, we aren’t saying, “No boys allowed.” Instead, we’re saying this is a space just for girls because we want to create and cultivate a sense of belonging that for too long has been missing for them in these male-dominated subject areas.

There may be a time in the future when we don’t need to carve out special programs dubbed “STEM for girls.” (When that time comes, we might be out of a job!) But for now, we believe it’s critical to give girls a dedicated community wherein they can explore their unlimited potential--and have the support of other brilliant girls and women like themselves.

And that critical work is at the heart of our efforts here at Play Like a Girl. Take a peek to see our mission in action.

Why Purpose and Mentorship Matter

Meet Linda Hope, a panelist at our Women’s Leadership Summit on March 19.

When Linda Hope started her Beautycounter business almost six years ago, she was confident her sales pitch about clean beauty products would resonate with others. Only it didn’t—at least not at first.

That feeling of failure wasn’t familiar for this Miami-born businesswoman, wife and mother who was accustomed to success. But, thanks to a strong North Star, she did what any smart and savvy woman would—she picked herself up and kept at it. 

“It was a defining moment in my career,” she says. “It felt like a failure, but it was actually the moment in which I decided to choose my dream over my fear.”

Linda will be participating in next week’s Women’s Leadership Summit, sharing her tips for how to create personal wealth - even in a pandemic. She joins more than 30 leaders donating a one-hour mentoring session to the Play Like a Girl Executive Auction. We caught up with her recently to discuss the power of a strong purpose and the role mentorship has played throughout her career.

PLAY LIKE A GIRL: What’s the best career advice you’ve gotten?

LINDA: It came from one of my mentors, who was a top executive at a Fortune 100 company at the time. She told me, [bctt tweet="“Never underestimate the power of networking and always leverage the discipline of following up.” That's advice @BeautycounterHQ ambassador @LindaDHope received from her mentor 20 years ago. Hear more at #NewRulesNewWorld Summit, March 19th." username="iplaylikeagirl"] This was a seed she planted in me over 20 years ago and one that is still bearing fruit today. My career success since then has greatly depended on the practice of her words of wisdom.

PLAY LIKE A GIRL: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?

LINDA: When I launched my clean beauty business, the topic of toxic ingredients in personal care products in my community was nonexistent. As a woman of color with an audience that looks a lot like me, and considering the disparity in our toxic burden, this was a much-needed conversation that I needed to initiate. But when I did, I received a lot of objection, rejection and opposition. I learned that you have to have extraordinary patience in the process and belief in the mission you are carrying out to remain steadfast and focused. Unbeknown to many, there’s a lot of sweat and emotional equity that goes into being a trailblazer. I thank God for my strong ‘why’ and commitment to my purpose because without it, I could have easily been deterred.

PLAY LIKE A GIRL: You have a daughter. How does she influence how you show up in the world as a business leader?

LINDA: My daughter is my greatest inspiration, and I am committed to being her best role model. I want to teach her by my example, not just by my words. Growing up, I was definitely more impacted by my parents’ actions than by their words. The work ethic and business acumen I have developed over the years was first instilled in me by my father and mother. I witnessed their determination and resilience in business, and it inspired me to become the entrepreneur and leader I am today.  

PLAY LIKE A GIRL: The theme of the summit is “New Rules for a New World.” What do you believe are some of the long-term implications (good and not-so-good) of the COVID-19 pandemic for women? What are your new rules for this new world—as a wife, mother and business owner?

LINDA: I have never experienced a crisis that has significantly impacted our society like the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in my life, I witnessed the world shut down and saw some of the busiest cities become ghost towns. From the loss of loved ones to the loss of livelihoods, this unprecedented time has presented us with challenges that we could never have imagined. The amount of loss that we have had to endure is devastating. As women, we often carry the heavier load of such loss and are hit the hardest. Studies have shown how women are more vulnerable economically considering the inequalities that already exist in the workforce. Also, the job loss rate is higher among women compared to our male counterparts.

But I must say, during this pandemic our resiliency and ability to pivot as women has been revealed. Many of us have become entrepreneurs during this time and have pursued more meaningful work. We figured out a way to thrive and leverage our virtual platforms. We have also gained a new appreciation for our health, our time and relationships with those we love. Having the flexibility to grow a business from the comfort of my home is what I appreciate most. In this new world, I will continue to create opportunities, and not just wait for them. I hope to make an impact in the lives of those I touch by continuing to unapologetically pursue the best version of myself as a mother, wife and business owner.

PLAY LIKE A GIRL: Let’s talk mentoring. Why is it important for girls and women to seek out mentors?

LINDA: I am where I am today because of the mentorship and guidance from others that have graciously poured into me. I once read a quote that said the greatest legacy anyone can leave behind is to positively impact others. And one of the greatest values of surrounding yourself with great mentors is that you can learn in less than an hour what it took them a lifetime to figure out.

Bidding is now open for the Executive Auction, and there’s still time to get your ticket for this can’t-miss event. Join Linda and other successful, emerging and future women leaders for the Women’s Leadership Summit, happening on March 19.

How to Build a Hockey Town? With Girls...

Nashville Predators committed to growing girls’ hockey program

Where Jennifer Boniecki grew up, outside of Chicago, she lived 15 minutes from six ice rinks. A 45-minute car trip expanded her options to more than 40 rinks. After her brother started playing hockey, Jennifer wanted to try it for herself. “The first time I got on the ice I fell in love with it,” she says. “It’s such a unique sport.”

Her mom wasn’t thrilled with her decision. “She was really hesitant about it,” Jennifer says. “At the time, hockey wasn’t seen as a sport that girls played—even in a hockey town like Chicago.”

But that was all about to change. Women’s hockey made its debut at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and the United States took gold. That really helped show the world (and Jennifer) that girls could not only play hockey but play it at the highest level.

Jennifer played the sport through college. After graduation, she started coaching. She took a job with the Chicago Blackhawks, introducing hockey (and STEM concepts, FTW!) to kids, before moving to Nashville in 2019 to coordinate the amateur hockey program for the Nashville Predators.

Meet and greet with the Predators’ female leaders

In celebration of National Girls & Women in Sports Day on Feb. 3, the Predators hosted a hockey clinic in partnership with Play Like a Girl. In addition to taking to the ice and learning a few basics (and STEM concepts!) our girls got the chance to meet some of the female leaders who work in the Predators organization—Michelle Kennedy, chief operating officer; Robin Lee, director of corporate sponsorship services; Lara Crouch, director of guest experience; and Kylie Wilkerson, senior manager of event services—during a virtual Q&A.

“When you’re an athlete, all you think about is playing at the highest level,” Jennifer explains. “But at some point, that comes to an end. So, how do you transition out of that? For a lot of women athletes, it’s working in a front office. So, we wanted to show what that might look like from four different angles.”

At the time, the Play Like a Girl clinic, held at the Ford Ice Center in Bellevue, was supposed to serve as a last call to sign up for the Preds Girls Hockey program, which kicks off this week. The only problem was, when registration opened the first of January, it sold out almost immediately. “We were able to open a couple more spots, but within days those were gone, too,” Jennifer says. “It’s clear that Nashville is a place where girls want to play hockey.”

Thanks to a grant from the NHL/NHLPA Industry Growth Fund, which Jennifer helped secure, girls of all ages (4-17) and all levels of proficiency (including those who have never skated before) are able to participate at no cost to them—and finish the 12-week program with a full set of equipment, which will be theirs to keep.

The plan is for many of these girls to sign up for this summer’s girls 3-on-3 league.

“This format will help us introduce traditional game play to our players,” she says. “It’s less structured, so it really fosters creativity and problem solving and helps them figure out the game on their own.”

There are plans for another 3-on-3 league and another development program (like the one running right now) for the fall.

“My hope is in the next couple years, we’ll have a girls’ travel team,” Jennifer says.

The Nashville Jr. Predators Hockey Club, an amateur affiliate of the Nashville Predators, currently has girls’ teams that compete nationally, but those are for high schoolers or older. [bctt tweet="“We’re working to build the pathway for girls, who can start at the beginning, play at an intermediate level and then continue on to elite, college and even professional hockey.”" username="iplaylikeagirl"]

The basics of girls’ hockey

So, what’s the sport like? If you’re picturing body checks and bloody noses, we’ve got news for you—it’s not that. Not at all. “That’s a very 1980s style of hockey,” she says. “You definitely still see it sometimes, but today’s game is much more about speed and agility. And girls’ hockey has different rules. It’s still physical, but less so.” 

Jennifer calls the sport safe, graceful, elegant even (players are on ice, after all). It’s also an equalizer of sorts. “Everyone starts at the same level,” she says. “You can’t look at someone who’s a great runner, for example, and know that they’ll be a good hockey player. You have to train and practice and build those skills—everyone does.” Hockey comes with all of the benefits of other team sports, like leadership, dedication, time management, plus one all its own: a strong sense of community.

“The community is so passionate and so supportive,” Jennifer says. “When you’re a hockey player, you are for your entire life.”

Play Like a Girl is proud to partner with the Nashville Predators to help with Nashville’s hockey town transformation. We are grateful for their financial support over the years and the opportunities to play this exciting sport and meet the women who are helping make it all happen.

Play Like a Girl LIVE: A Virtual Experience

A free, interactive, four-week virtual experience inspired by our times

Play Like a Girl will host a new interactive, weekly, 60-minute virtual event series on consecutive Thursdays from September 3 to September 24 starting at 6pm ET/5pm CT. The series will showcase prominent women in diverse fields addressing topics like confidence, leadership, social justice and more—all while networking, mentoring and having a little fun! 

"We spent early 2020 telling the stories of confident girls and women who empower each other to realize their limitless potential. It was so inspiring. Then the pandemic hit and shook everything," said Play Like a Girl CEO Dr. Kim. "Now, it's more important than ever to be and stay inspired, empowered and connected—especially, while social distancing. Together, we will reset, refocus and resolve to stay the course in these challenging times."

As we gear up for International Day of the Girl on October 11, we’re inviting women across the country to share empowering stories with middle school girls about the importance of staying focused, no matter what. Throughout the four weeks, Dr. Kim will share lessons that have carried her through the pandemic and help the audience find ways to stay in the game through the last quarter of the year. 

The weekly event will also feature group mentoring exercises, at-home self-care practices, and Play Like a Girl board members and special guests live in conversation with women thought leaders at the top of their game who are showing us what it means to live inspired, empowered, more connected lives.

The weekly series will explore the following themes:

Thursday, September 3: Inspire

Kate T. Parker, photographer and best-selling author of Play Like a Girl: Life Lessons from the Soccer Field, kicks off the series celebrating the power of team and what it means to play like a girl.

Thursday, September 10: Empower

IF/THEN Ambassadors Dr. Kiki Jenkins, Dr. Monica RhoSarah Wilson show us how sport can help strengthen girls’ leadership skills and prepare them for a thriving career in male-dominated STEM fields.

Thursday, September 17: Connect

Olympic soccer superstar and mom of two girls Christie Pearce Rampone shares practical, real world advice from her book Be All In: Raising Kids for Success in Sports and Life on how mothers can build relationships with their daughters that will set girls up for lifelong success.

Thursday, September 24: Impact

Looking for ways you can show up for black and brown girls—in ways that matter now? Former athlete and youth basketball coach Portia Archer shares a range of lessons from the basketball court to the boardroom as Chief Operating Officer of the NBA G League. 

To join the free virtual experience, visit to register. The series will be hosted as a Zoom Video Webinar and live streamed on Play Like a Girl’s Facebook and YouTube channels. The four sessions will remain available for on-demand viewing across all platforms.

GIVEAWAY ANYONE?! ???? Follow us on Instagram and tag your tribe of gals (and guys) who will be watching with you. We’ve got free copies of Kate’s new book for a few lucky pairs, so hop on it! 

Media interested in additional information or with any press inquiries can call (615) 601-1864.


María: Driving Meaningful Change

“Potential Realized: A Mission with Impact” puts the spotlight on five amazing middle school students whose shared love of STEM and sports transcends their differences. These young women — all Play Like a Girl program participants — are true embodiments of our determination to create a world where girls believe in endless possibilities.

Meet all of our “Potential Realized” honorees here.

Name, Age

María Villanagra, 11


Liberty Collegiate Academy 



Favorite Sport

Swimming, Ice Skating

Favorite STEM Subject


Words you live by

"Everything happens for a reason."

Who is your hero?

My mom. And my dad. My mom is working and studying full time and she puts so much effort into everything. 

How is she potential, realized? 

María has always looked out for the people around her. She puts the people she cares about first, recounting a time when she gave a notebook she received at a Play Like a Girl event to a friend that lost her own as just one example of her selflessness. 

When her elementary school classmates Harper and Ryleigh initially joined Play Like a Girl, María was intrigued. She loved the idea that “girls can do anything”. Above all, she was excited about the potential that she saw Play Like a Girl bringing out in her classmates. Because of that, she joined hoping that Play Like a Girl could do the same for her. However, María did not realize just how much of an impact it would have on her. 

Through Play Like a Girl programs and events, María quickly became interested in different aspects of technology. More specifically, she realized she had real passion for photography and digital design. Speaking with mentors and learning more about the different opportunities helped her begin to envision a future career path in photography. 

María realized that she could pursue photography to have an even bigger impact on the lives of those around her. María began to recognize that the world of technology is vast and is filled with opportunities to support the causes about which she is most interested. One of those causes is climate change. 

Through the opportunities she has found at Play Like a Girl, María has been able to weave together her passion for environmental conservation with her interest in photography--toward real career goals. 

 “I want to try to make people more aware of climate change and how we could save the earth,” María tells us. “Everything has an effect, and I want to help people be more aware of the outcomes of their actions.” 

María knew she wanted to help people in some way even before became involved in Play Like a Girl programs. But she is now able to clearly imagine just how she dreams of doing that, using photography and digital technology to convey a specific message. María now realizes that her future careers goals are achievable. 

She is soaring to new heights in the classroom, simply because she has clear goals. “It has definitely helped me put more love and care into my education,” she tells us. “I used to not love it [school] as much as I do now. Realizing my potential and what I can do and thinking about the future has made me love learning so much more.” 

Knowing the power that education gives her to chase her dreams has reignited María's drive. Play Like a Girl has helped her see the exciting things she can do, motivating her so that she makes the most of her educational opportunities. She now brings much more ambition to everything she does. And her motivation has paid off. 

María’s academic performance has risen notably since she started Play Like a Girl. She has earned a reputation as a top performer, especially in STEM subjects. Her tenacity has also carried over to her other activities. She brings renewed energy to piano, choir, and her school club activities. 

She is thankful for the opportunity Play Like a Girl has given her to become “better as a person.” María shares openly about the confidence she has gained through Play Like a Girl. And her peers are motivated by her example. Certainly, our favorite girl María is potential, realized. 

Meet all of our Potential Realized honorees. And share their profiles on Twitter with the hashtag #PotentialRealized.

Follow #PotentialRealized on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Harper: Designing Her Own Future

“Potential Realized: A Mission with Impact” puts the spotlight on five amazing middle school students whose shared love of STEM and sports transcends their differences. These young women — all Play Like a Girl program participants — are true embodiments of our determination to create a world where girls believe in endless possibilities.

Meet all of our “Potential Realized” honorees here.

Name, Age

 Harper, 11


Dupont Hadley 



Favorite Sport


Favorite STEM Subject


Words you live by

[bctt tweet="She believed she could, so she did." username="iplaylikeagirl"]

How is she potential, realized? 

When Harper is asked who her hero is, she names her elementary school art teacher. She has always known that she loves art, and had a passion for design and creativity. However, she never realized that she could turn that passion into a career at the intersection of STEM.

When Harper’s dad found out about a Play Like a Girl ice skating event on Facebook, he signed her up. She quickly became interested in the other programs offered. According to Harper, “I was curious about it [Play Like a Girl] and I liked doing it because I got to learn more about STEM, and it would help me in school and help me better understand things covered in school.” 

Harper’s experience at Play Like a Girl programs has pushed her to excel in the classroom.  She excels specifically in math and science, as well as in art class, where she has earned an strong reputation.  

She sees her confidence as stemming from exposure to “women in a variety of jobs and now knowing I could choose my own future job.” Today, Harper envisions a plethora of career opportunities of which she was unaware before joining Play Like a Girl.

Harper has long dreamed of an art career in art. However, she had no idea how that might look until Play Like a Girl. Highlights of her experience include opportunities to engage with a wide range of women in the workplace on our Corporate Field Trips and through other mentoring programs that have allowed her to see where she might one day find her place in the world. But today, she sees that somewhere at the cross section of engineering and design. 

She has been able to see the connections between what she learns in art class about creativity and expression and the technology we use in our everyday lives. Because of inspiration she has drawn from our programs, Harper has even started joining her dad at his plumbing job. She gets “to go into the house and see how [plumbing] looks and is built” and “may want to do something like that.” 

Exposure to real world jobs and women (and men) who are leaders across a wide range of STEM careers has given Harper an idea of how her passions and interests can intersect in a way that allows her to construct and build new things. This gives her the motivation to keep working hard in the classroom. 

Harper loves Play Like a Girl because she's been able to find a strong community that allows her to maintain relationships with former classmates as well as get a clearer vision of the limitless opportunities available to her.

She credits her Play Like a Girl community and the bold vision for girls for her newfound confidence and willingness to step out of her "box" in social situations, as well as in the classroom and on the softball field. “Play Like a Girl has changed the way I am when I meet a new person I don’t know. I'm more confident and outgoing now.” 

Whether helping her peers in math class, playing a game of softball with her team, or just exploring and meeting like-minded girls through other Play Like a Girl events, this community has changed a lot for Harper. She has found her voice which she now uses to elevate others. Harper is truly potential, realized.

Meet all of our Potential Realized honorees. And share their profiles on Twitter with the hashtag #PotentialRealized.

Follow #PotentialRealized on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Carwyn: Shooting for the Stars

“Potential Realized: A Mission with Impact” puts the spotlight on five amazing middle school students whose shared love of STEM and sports transcends their differences. These young women — all Play Like a Girl program participants — are true embodiments of our determination to create a world where girls believe in endless possibilities.

Meet all of our “Potential Realized” honorees here.

Name, age

Carwyn, 10


Reeves Rogers Elementary 


Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Favorite sport

Cheer, basketball

Favorite STEM subject


Words you live by

[bctt tweet="I can do anything I put my mind to. — Carwyn, age 10" username="iplaylikeagirl"]

How is she potential, realized?

Carwyn initially joined the Play Like a Girl community because of her interest in STEM, telling us “I first attended the Play Like a Girl summer camp, one of my first summer camps ever. I wanted to be involved because I liked being around girls who enjoy science just like me. It gave me an opportunity to learn about STEM.”

However, she quickly realized that Play Like a Girl is about so much more than science alone. Carwyn reports that she is “more interested in science,” and talks more to her teachers and friends about STEM. “I feel like more of a leader in the classroom,” she says. 

Carwyn loves Play Like a Girl because she enjoys being able to spend time with other girls her age while also learning about STEM and the role she can take in it. Among her favorite Play Like a Girl activities are our corporate field trips where she gets the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at local companies, engage in hands-on STEM activities and meet women (and men) in a wide range of STEM-related careers. 

Carwyn says that being afforded the opportunity to participate in Play Like a Girl programs and events has helped build her confidence, overcome her discomfort about speaking in public, and be fierce — allowing her to dream bigger and crazier than ever. “I want to work for NASA and now I know that I can,” she says. “[Play Like a Girl] makes me feel like that dream is realistic and will eventually come true.” 

Marked decline in intrinsic academic motivation occurs between the ages of 11 and 16. One of the most effective ways to maintain this motivation is through setting high goals and ambitions for the future. Girls who are able to clearly articulate their goals for the future and who maintain the belief that their goals are attainable through hard work tend to experience far less decline in academic motivation during early adolescence. 

Because Carwyn is able to consider and share her long-term goals with so much confidence, she is able to influence her peer group including her cheer team and girls in her classes to dream big and work hard in pursuit of their dreams too. She now knows that simply believing that she can do anything she puts her mind is an important catalyst for realizing her full potential. 

Play Like a Girl is helping girls like Carwyn step up, realize their dreams, and find their place as leaders in the world. 

Follow #PotentialRealized on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.