“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.

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