What’s All The Talk About Young Professionals?

Play Like a Girl’s Young Professionals Network began as a way to build connections with early career professionals who want to serve and make an impact but haven’t had board experience.

What started as a simple idea at a board retreat several years ago has become the work of a handful of people including our newest Young Professionals Network Co-Chairs, Channing Moreland and Aqiyla Reed. 

Since starting this project, however, we’ve unearthed a world of research that points to a very big opportunity: Young professionals are looking for meaningful ways to build their networks while engaging in social good. 

So we’ve designed a community that aims to help young professionals in Nashville accomplish just that.

Connect. Do Good. Have Fun!

We’re working with our team of emerging young leaders, STEM professionals and passionate sports enthusiasts to understand how we can build a network uniquely designed to enhance connections while advancing our mission. 

We know from first-hand experience that virtual meetups, professional development opportunities, speed networking events and engagements that connect volunteers with the girls we serve can be magical experiences where you really connect with our mission and the people around you. 

In order to deliver more of these experiences, we officially launched the new Young Professionals Network last September. Our goal is to help young women and men across Nashville connect and build their networks. 

Whether you connect with someone over a shared skill or professional interest, a hobby, volunteer activity or a favorite TV show like The Bachelor or Game of Thrones, we want you to know that our network is the perfect way to meet up, network and make a difference!

We’re confident that the connections you build at Play Like a Girl can strengthen and expand your network - and will help you with your professional goals. 

We’re also pretty sure that a lot of the feelings of isolation and disconnectedness being felt in the middle of the pandemic and in the modern workplace can be solved with a supportive network of new friends and colleagues connected by a shared commitment to do good in their community. 

We want to strengthen networks and build this kind of social capital!

If you are interested in helping us leverage social networks to deliver on our mission, please consider joining our Young Professionals Network

We’d love to have you join us!

What’s In It for You?

Our new Young Professionals Network offers various networking opportunities and socializing incentives as part of the program. 

One of the methods we are implementing to facilitate social interaction is virtual speed networking - a networking session where young professionals swap conversational partners every 15 minutes with the aim to meet as many people as possible and exchange information to help enhance their careers, address work challenges and develop new skills and connections. 

Event Series Format

Young Professionals Network speed networking events will take place over Zoom. Each event will begin with a 15-minute introductory discussion led by a guest speaker(s). Then, networking participants will be broken into groups of approximately 3-5 young professionals who will rotate through breakout rooms in 15-minute increments. 

Each breakout will be facilitated by a senior executive who will provide career advice, answer questions and connect young professionals with people in their network who might be able to help them reach specific professional goals. 

After three rotations, all event attendees will reconvene in the main meeting room for closing remarks and announcements. 

YP Network Steering Committee members will facilitate breakout rotations so that participants can focus on engaging with one another. 

We encourage the exchange of contact information, either during or following the events, to facilitate one-on-one networking afterwards. 

What should you talk about during speed networking? 

15 minutes doesn't seem like a long time so it is important that you focus on the essentials. Start by introducing yourself then go into more detail. Are you looking for collaborators? Or maybe a new job or a training/education opportunity?

How can you do that in just 15 minutes?

  • Prepare a 30-second blurb about yourself
  • Stick to the vitals and exchange contact information
  • Take notes of important points so that you can go back to them
  • Most importantly, have fun and relax! 
  • Stay aware of the time - a countdown will appear on your screen 3 minutes before it's time to rotate again

What if you don't finish your conversation within the allocated time slot?

  • Before the time is up, make sure you suggest the next step
  • Message your connections directly with a suggested time for a follow-up meeting
  • After the meeting, be sure to exchange emails to schedule future check-ins as appropriate


We hope to see you at our first virtual speed networking event on November 17 at 5:30 pm CDT. To register for this and future Young Professionals events, visit iplaylikeagirl.org/events.


Celebrating 16 Years Together, Apart

Nothing can stop a festive dinner party - not even a global pandemic. While COVID-19 has put many in-person events on hold, virtual event technology has made it possible to gather with family, friends, coworkers, and peers from afar.

Play Like a Girl is hosting a chic virtual dinner party to celebrate 16 years championing equality and economic opportunity for girls and women.  ​

Chef Steven Robilio of Amerigo Italian restaurant will headline Play Like a Girl's 16th Anniversary Virtual Dinner Party fundraiser this fall. In years past, the event has involved a meet-and-greet cocktail hour, silent and live auctions and a plated multi-course dinner in a hotel ballroom at beautifully decorated tables.

But this year, it will all take place online because s​taying in is the new going outat least for now. And we're taking it up a notch while making the most of your next celebration with us.

The virtual dinner party will be held on November 7. Ingredient boxes will be available for curbside pickup at Amerigo locations in Nashville and Brentwood in advance of the dinner.

A shopping list will be provided to out-of-town guests who wish to cook with us locals. With it, guests will cook a three-course dinner alongside Chef Steven, who will be leading a live cooking lesson on Zoom.

The event will kick off at 5:45 p.m. with our friends Jess & Willow of BarBees who will make the signature cocktail and answer questions from guests during a 15-minute cocktail hour and showcase.

Following the dinner program and online cooking lesson, guests will then eat dinner with family and friends in private Zoom dining rooms.

Guests also will have access to the live cooking lesson to enjoy the experience at their own pace after the event.

A live mini-concert featuring local vocalist Arianna Hume will round out the evening.

“We're excited to produce our biennial Play Like a Girl Honors event in a new and interactive way that allows us to expand our audience and connect with our supporters across the country,” said Dr. Kimberly Clay, Play Like a Girl founder and CEO. “Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy cooking a delicious meal with Chef Steven live in their own kitchen.”

The event will highlight the stories of Play Like a Girl participants and supporters like Maria Villagrana and WKRN News 2 Chief Meteorologist Danielle Breezy who will call donors to action. The focus of this year's fundraising appeal will challenge donors to join our new monthly giving program, The Squad.

The event will also recognize the 2020 Volunteer of the Year honoree, LaPourche White. LaPourche has volunteered with Play Like a Girl since 2016. This summer when programs went online due to coronavirus, she stepped into the role of mentor to girls who developed STEM-centered businesses in a weeklong camp powered by Microsoft.

Ticketing will also be different this year. Each ticket includes a cocktail kit and one ingredient box with enough food for two servings.

Regular dinner tickets are $90, and dinner for four is $150. Premium tickets are $420 (the equivalent of a $35 monthly donation) and includes Play Like a Girl membership for a year.

Tickets are available until November 3rd. To buy tickets, visit iplaylikeagirl.org/events.

U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys, co-host of Stick to Sports on VICE Cari Champion and Country music star Trisha Yearwood headlined the 2018 dinner.


Play Like a Girl Announces New Board Chair

Former President of Women in Technology Tennessee brings more than 20 years of recruitment experience and tech leadership to Play Like a Girl board

NASHVILLE, TN. -- Play Like a Girl announced today that Marla Lamont has joined the nonprofit’s board of directors as its new Chairwoman.

Lamont is a well-respected talent acquisition leader with extensive experience in corporate and third-party recruiting. She has exceptional ability to understand a company’s business strategy and develop a talent acquisition strategy that aligns to its goals and objectives. The talent veteran also has more than 20 years of experience in the tech industry, and served as president at Women in Technology Tennessee (WiTT). She is currently the Director of Business Development at Relode, a crowdsourced healthcare recruitment platform that matches professionals to leading jobs at top companies.

“Few nonprofits are pursuing as bold and ambitious of a vision as Play Like a Girl,” said Lamont. “Like WiTT, the team at Play Like a Girl is passionate about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) but they’re also doing some amazing things in sports. I’m thrilled to be part of an organization dedicated to harnessing the skills girls gain from early and ongoing sport participation to develop their potential for a future in STEM, and I look forward to helping them extend their impact even further.”

In addition to Lamont, newly-elected Play Like a Girl board members include:

  • Channing Moreland, Co-CEO / Head of Partnerships for eva
  • Deann Moore, Sr. Director, Change Management, Asurion
  • Aqiyla Reed-Dowdell, Senior EDI Business Analyst, HCA Healthcare
  • Lee Ann Shephard, Vice President, Human Resources, BFC Solutions
  • Christina E. Stephens, Business Consultant, Teragram Visions

"Marla is a world-class corporate leader,” said Play Like a Girl CEO and Founder Dr. Kimberly Clay. “We are excited about the strategic guidance she will bring as we navigate this period of uncertainty and unprecedented change. In particular, we are eager to tap into her experience and insights in talent acquisition as we prepare to hire additional staff and begin succession planning for my eventual transition.”

To learn more about Marla and her team at Play Like a Girl, visit www.iplaylikeagirl.org/team.

Women's Flag Football Is New College Sport

We push our girls to challenge themselves in every way possible including sport. We know that sports help girls develop skills for the classroom, workplace and life. The confidence, work ethic, leadership skills gained from sport have proven benefits for women far beyond the field of play.  

Needless to say, we support school-age girls in sport. Because of this, we're equally excited by opportunities that arise for young women in collegiate athletics.

This past June, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), National Football League (NFL), and our partners at Reigning Champs Experiences (RCX) collaborated to make women’s flag football an official collegiate sport. 

The NFL reports to CNN that fifteen schools plan to start women's flag football teams. They will begin competing in Spring 2021. There will be scholarship opportunities for players at those institutions. 

“This is an example of what the next 100 years of football can look like," NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent tells CNN. "Women leading the efforts, not just as fans, not just as moms supporting their boys. Now, young ladies could actually compete and earn a scholarship like they have seen their brothers and their fathers do for so many years."

Over the past few decades, participation among girls in organized flag football at younger ages has increased significantly. An unprecedented number of high school girls switch from other sports to flag football. Therefore, the opportunity to pursue the sport collegiately gives women the chance to take the love of flag football to a whole new level. 

Toni Harris is a defensive back for NAIA school Central Methodist University in Fayetteville, Missouri. In 2019, Harris became the first woman to receive a football scholarship to play a skill position at a collegiate level. She believes that this development offers young women a lot of new opportunity, and we agree. 

Harris tells CNN, “I think...the future of football is female. Not only is this [decision by NAIA] opening doors for girls to compete at the collegiate level, it's opening up more doors for maybe the NFL to start a WNFL one day.” Harris and others believe that the establishment of women's flag football as an official collegiate sport is a big step toward gender equality and equity in sport. 

Many great barriers still stand in the way of a perfectly level playing field. The NAIA is a much smaller governing body of collegiate athletics than the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Because of this, women who wish to play flag football collegiately will be limited in their choice of programs. Furthermore, media attention and money dedicated to women’s sports continue to severely lag that given to men.

Nonetheless, this remains a major milestone in the fight for equality. This development breaks barriers. We are optimistic that this move signals more exciting opportunities for women in sport. 

IF She Can See It, THEN She Can Be It

‘IF she can see it, THEN she can be it.’

Images of professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields have traditionally underrepresented women and minorities. This makes it challenging for organizations like Play Like a Girl to develop compelling visual content that allows girls to see themselves engaging in science.

IF/THEN®, a national initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies which seeks to advance women in STEM, launched the IF/THEN® Collection to address this issue. The Collection is the largest, free resource of its kind with thousands of photos and videos of diverse and powerful contemporary women in STEM.

The Collection is critical to inspiring girls to pursue STEM careers and shifting how the world perceives women in STEM.

”Our goal is for girls everywhere to see STEM as exciting, relevant, and cool.”

—Nicole Small

The IF/THEN Collection features 125 female STEM innovators known as AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors, who serve as high-profile role models for girls. You may recall several of these women (Afua Bruce, Gracie Ermi, Sydney Hamilton and Beata Mierzwa) from our #GirlsRockSTEM Summit back in June.

Like these women, generations of women scientists and innovators have long created the realities we experience in the world.

Imagine life without the following seven inventions by women:

Medical Syringes

For years, the medical community struggled to perform procedures, as syringes required two hands to operate. In 1899, Leticia Greer created a revolutionary design for a one hand syringe that quickly replaced the old model. Her design is still in use today worldwide. She single handedly changed medical procedure through her creation.

Windshield Wipers

Every single car on the market today comes with windshield wipers to protect drivers’ vision in the rain. However, most people don’t realize that the original design for them came from Mary Anderson in 1903. Sadly, because she was a woman, her design was not implemented for ten more years. At that point it was accredited to a different inventor.  

Central Heating

In 1919, Alice Parker changed the heating game with her invention of a natural gas heating system to replace the wood burning systems in place at the time. However, like Anderson, her design was sadly later popularized by and credited to another inventor. 


Our society has increasingly become centered around computers in this technological age. A lot of people might not know this, but without mathematician Ada Lovelace who wrote the original computer algorithm in 1843 and computer scientist Grace Hopper who later wrote the first modern computer programming language in 1952, computers would not function how they do today. 

Word Processing

Almost everyone in the U.S. has used Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Pages. Without Evelyn Berezin who created the first word processing system in 1971, we might still be writing our papers on typewriters.

Airplane Mufflers

We would not be able to fly all around the world today like we do without airplane mufflers to protect the engines. In 1917, the “Iron Woman” El Dorado Jones invented the airplane muffler in her metalworking factory. This revolutionized the flight industry, changing the scope of what planes can do. 


It’s hard to imagine a kitchen without a refrigerator to keep food from going bad. In 1914, Florence Parpart created the first electric refrigerator to replace the ice boxes people were using at the time. Her design has improved over the years, but still resembles what you probably have in your own kitchen. 

We are thrilled to finally have images that depict the world as we see it here at Play Like a Girl. Many thanks to IF/THEN and all of the partners who have played a role in bringing the Collection to the world. 

Announcing New Board Members

Play Like a Girl is pleased to announce the addition of six new members to the Board of Directors, effective July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023: Jessica Bliss, journalist for The Tennessean; Judith Engelsen-Daub, Vice President of Client Success Organization at GEODIS; Mon-Kisha Porter, Customer Receivables Manager at Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation; Ashlie Summer, Vice President of Operations at FLEETCOR Technologies; and, Vibhav Veldore, Sales and Marketing Director — Agriculture & Off the Road Tires (LATAM) at Bridgestone Americas Inc. Also joining the Board as an ex-officio member is Michaela Kirk, Business Development Engineer at Turner Construction. Kirk will chair the newly-established Play Like a Girl Young Professionals Board. For more information about our team, visit iplaylikeagirl.org/team.

The Board provides leadership for carrying out the Organization’s mission to advance the health and empowerment of girls and women everywhere through sport. Dr. Chevis Shannon, Director of the Surgical Center for Kids at Monroe Carroll Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University, serves as chair of the 2020 Board of Directors.

More will be shared on these new Directors over the next several days. Please follow their stories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @iplaylikeagirl.

Play Like a Girl Hosts Leading Women in Science and Tech


Media Contact: Hannah Pike

615-601-1864 | [email protected]


Play Like a Girl connects middle school girls to women in STEM careers through STEM+ Saturday makerspace labs, lunchtime mentoring in Metro Schools and hands-on experiences

NASHVILLE, Feb. 24, 2020 -- Nashville-based nonprofit Play Like a Girl® will host #GirlsRockSTEM, it’s 10th Annual Summit to educate and empower middle school girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through mentoring and hands-on experiences. Mentors and speakers include leading women scientists like bat conservationist Kristen Lear who will be featured in #IfThenSheCan – The Exhibit, a new monumental exhibit of the most women statues ever assembled in one location, at one time. This first-of-its-kind, life-sized 3D printed statue exhibit celebrating the contributions of more than 120 AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors, contemporary female STEM professionals and role models from a variety of industries, is set to debut in May.

“It is critical that our girls have role models and early, positive experiences in STEM so that they’re able to see the unlimited possibilities available to them,” said Dr. Kimberly Clay, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Play Like a Girl. “Our ability to connect girls with women in a wide range of STEM careers is essential to growing a robust and diverse talent pipeline that will drive meaningful growth in our economy both locally and nationally. And we’re so excited and thankful to have employees from local companies including AllianceBernstein, Amazon and Asurion serve as industry mentors and event volunteers.”

The 2020 STEM+ Summit on March 7 will convene 150 girls and their mothers and teachers from across Greater Nashville. Together with industry mentors, they will explore STEM careers through inspiring talks, hands-on activities and interactive makerspace workshops like coding, robotics, virtual reality and so much more. Chief Meteorologist Danielle Breezy will open the conference and serve as event host throughout the day. Dr. Feyi Aworunse, an optometrist at Nashville General Hospital, will deliver the keynote presentation using a series of optical illusions to engage girls in an exciting and impactful conversation about the power of vision. Also speaking at the event are U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn; Deborah Knoll, Tennessee Director of K-12 Programs & STEM Initiatives; and, Sharonese Henderson, UPS IT Solutions Provider and Board member for the Women in STEM Center at Middle Tennessee State University.

Registration for #GirlsRockSTEM is now open through March 3 for all middle school girls grades 5-8 at www.iplaylikeagirl.org. Registration includes admission to all educational sessions, breakfast, lunch, snacks and dessert as well as a celebratory dance party to commemorate Women’s History Month. Girls will also enjoy a live DJ, LUNAFEST® short films and a screening of CBS’s hot new show Mission Unstoppable, photo booths, sponsor goodies and limited edition #GirlsRockSTEM merchandise on sale at the event. A parent or adult chaperone is required to attend the event with each girl or group of up to 8 girls. Scholarships are available by calling (615) 601-1864. Wells Fargo is event sponsor.

The Play Like a Girl STEM+ Summit will be held at Middle Tennessee State University’s Student Union Center in Murfreesboro. For more information, visit www.iplaylikeagirl.org.




Play Like a Girl is a Nashville-based national 501(c)3 charitable organization founded in 2004. Our mission is to ensure that every girl reaches her full potential by providing girls ages 9-13 an opportunity—and in many cases, their only chance—to participate in sport and physical activity. We offer programs and resources designed to transform girls’ motivation into an “I am unstoppable” attitude. It is our goal to help girls everywhere find the courage to do things beyond the field of play that they never thought possible. Ultimately, we seek to harness the natural properties of sport to propel young women into competitive, male-dominated careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We believe that girls given the opportunity to play on a team become women who have the confidence to stand on their own. For more information, visit iplaylikeagirl.org, and join us on social media @iplaylikeagirl.

Play Like a Girl Summit Stage to Feature Danielle Breezy, Bat Conservationist Kristen Lear, a future Astronaut & More!

#GirlsRockSTEM, the 2020 Play Like a Girl Summit is fast approaching and we’ve got yet another reason why you’ll want to grab your tickets sooner than later. Tickets are on sale now! For more info about tickets, speakers and the latest news, visit our Summit page here.

Every year, the Play Like a Girl Summit brings middle school girls face to face with dozens of the most prominent names in business, sports, entertainment and beyond. This year, we’re proud to highlight some of the 125 women STEM Ambassadors, who are the face of a new campaign sponsored by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Play Like a Girl Summit stage will serve as the intersection of education and empowerment, bridging the gap between this generation’s most prominent voices and the next generation of STEM leaders. From Nashville’s own Chief Meteorologist Danielle Breezy and Faith Borden with the National Weather Service, to bat conservationist Kristen Lear and creative Kynisha Ducre of Google, the conversations and workshops set to take place are sure to inspire the next generation of innovators.

Roller derby skater and neuroscientist
Dr. Elizabeth Engler-Chiurazzi will make her Play Like a Girl Summit debut that’s sure to make a lasting impact and energize the crowd.

Dr. Feyi Aworunse will be on hand to inspire girls to visualize unlimited possibilities and bring their futures into focus for 2020 and beyond.

Award-winning software engineer Gracie Ermi, as well as Data Kind’s Chief Program Officer Afua Bruce will each share valuable gems from their remarkable journeys bringing engineering to social impact.

Electrical engineer Aisha Lowery will share the personal ups and downs of her career journey and guide girls to develop their own action plan through interactive “Failure not Fear” workshop exercises.

Disability and design activist Anaiss Arreola and Taylor Richardson, aka Astronaut StarBright, will take to the Play Like a Girl Summit stage for the first time, where they will shed light on a new wave of social and artistic activism anchored by next generation leaders.

Bat conservationist Kristen Lear will be on hand to expand on the work she’s done so far to help develop practical, equitable and meaningful solutions to bat conservation challenges around the world.

Plus, Chief Meteorologist Danielle Breezy will host the daylong conference and expo sponsored by Wells Fargo. The Summit will be streamed live online and will feature girl power music sets by DJ Tera “Jazzy T” Whitfield of 101.1 The Beat.

Additional names to be announced soon.

“This year’s Play Like a Girl Summit will feature a lineup of high-profile guests, electrifying STEM experiences and empowering talks as well as highlight inspiring girls and women who are changing the game across industries. The event will also feature an intimate one-on-one conversation with a future NASA astronaut,” said Research Neuroscientist and tech entrepreneur Elizabeth Ann Stringer who is a member of the Summit Organizing Committee. “Intergenerational programming spanning coding, robotics, aerospace and 3-D printing among other topics will provide the tools to facilitate education and growth through the sharing of real stories from real women in STEM.”  

For a full lineup of this year’s speakers and industry partners, visit www.iplaylikeagirl.org/summit.



Apply to Exhibit: 2020 STEM Industry Expo

March 7, 2020 | 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

MTSU Student Union Building

The Play Like a Girl Summit – Industry Expo highlights converging industries leading innovation in Nashville and across the world and engages Summit attendees in experiential STEM education and career mentoring, hosting a diverse range of forward-thinking exhibitors ranging from promising startups to established industry leaders.

Interested in being a part of the most exciting STEM exhibition in Nashville this Women’s History Month? Then look no further than the Play Like a Girl Summit – Industry Expo. Unlike similar exhibitions, the Play Like a Girl Industry Expo is rooted in industry-led activations across converging industries intersecting STEM. Each activation is staffed by two industry professionals—ideally, women. In the afternoon after the Expo closes, these women join Summit attendees for lunch and the keynote presentation and, later, serve as mentors to groups of 8 girls challenged to pitch a tech-driven solution to a social problem impacting girls and women worldwide. 

The Industry Expo is open to innovative businesses and organizations including but not limited to the following categories: startups, female founders, content creators, lifestyle technology, marketing, manufacturing, design and innovation, robotics, hardware and software, gaming, esports, security and cyber security, social impact, sports technology, VR/AR/MR, online media, health and fitness, music technology, artist services and food technology.

For more info, visit iplaylikeagirl.org/summit. If you’d like to join in on the fun, please contact us at [email protected].


The Industry Expo is comprised of several immersive, key components, including the Meet the Scientist Experience, STEM Program Hub and College Fair.

Meet the Scientist

Meet the Scientist draws inspiration from converging industries that span the focus of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) plus arts, research and so much more. These exhibitions showcase inventive, emerging cross-industry technology, allowing students to personally meet real-life role models in STEM and engage in hands-on activities with a business product or service through live experiments, demonstrations and book signings.

STEM Program Hub 

The STEM Program Hub features high-quality STEM education programs, a space to learn about industry-supported camps and internships, and the chance to connect with fellow attendees. Whether attendees are seeking info about educational opportunities or need a quick recharge, the Hub is the place to be.

College Fair 

Summit attendees will visit the College Fair for casual networking with students and institutional representatives from a wide range of STEM disciplines and departments at some of Tennessee’s leading non-profit colleges and universities. Participating institutions will share details about scholarships and other opportunities to support students’ career interests in STEM.

The Industry Expo will include a live DJ and projected films. Each Meet the Scientist booth includes the following equipment:

  • 2 – Plastic Contour Chairs
  • 1 – 6’L x 24”W x 30”H Skirted Table
  • 1 – Identification Sign with Company Name 

Movie Q&A: Meet 'Troop Zero' star Bella Higginbotham

In an exciting plot twist, Dr. Kim was introduced to Nashville native Bella Higginbotham, cast member of Amazon Studios' original Troop Zero, after announcing Play Like a Girl's participation in an advance screening of the eagerly anticipated film this weekend.

Set in rural 1977 Georgia, Troop Zero stars Academy Award-winners Viola Davis and Allison Janney, Mckenna Grace and Jim Gaffigan, and centers around a misfit girl’s dream of making contact with outer space. When a national competition offers her a chance at her dream, to be recorded on NASA’s Golden Record, she recruits a makeshift troop of Birdie Scouts, forging relationships that last a lifetime and beyond. The endearing underdog tale also stars Mike Epps, Edi Patterson and Charlie Shotwell, and introduces Bella who plays Anne-Claire alongside Milan Ray and Johanna Colón. Troop Zero is directed by the award-winning directing team Bert & Bertie from a script by Academy Award-nominee Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild). Producers are Todd Black, Jason Blumental and Steve Tisch.

In celebration of the film's worldwide launch on Prime Video on January 17, Amazon Studios will bring an exclusive Troop Zero early viewing party to AMC Thoroughbred, located at 633 Frazier Drive in Franklin, on Saturday, January 11 at 11 a.m. Free passes are available and include the red carpet-inspired pre-party, autographs and photos with Bella, and the film screening. Each pass admits two guests and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis at the venue. Movie goers are encouraged to arrive early and must enter the auditorium together. Passes do not guarantee admission as free screenings can overbook.

Earlier this week, we did a Question & Answer session with Bella about her experience filming Troop Zero, her life on and off set and what she's working on next.

Tell me about the call. Did you read for the role of Anne-Claire or were you cast some other way?

First, we sent in a video audition for Anne-Claire and Christmas. I liked Anne-Claire better for me, and I’m glad they agreed, because Mckenna Grace is a fantastic Christmas! I got a call back for Anne-Claire in Savannah, Georgia and I met with the directors in Spring 2017. After that I was pinned for the role. (Which meant I was their first pick). It was supposed to film in the summer of 2017, but unexpected delays caused filming to be postponed. We waited about a year until we heard I was cast. I was over the moon when I got the good news! 

So who is Anne-Claire? What’s her story? What, if any, similarities do you have with the character?

Anne-Claire is a nine year old evangelist, who is sweet, shy, and a bit of an oddball. She wishes desperately to make friends, but because of her one eye, she has a bit of a hard time. I absolutely loved to play AC because of her awkward-y-shyness and sweet outlook on the world. Anne Clair and I have many differences, but we both are pretty quirky. 

Talk about a star-studded cast! Between Allison Janney and Viola Davis, there’s a lot of talent in this film. Who among them do you admire most and why? Did you have the opportunity to film with her or him? What was that like? What did you learn from them to improve your craft?

[bctt tweet="I was EXTREMELY lucky to have worked with such incredible actors and comedians. While on set, Miss Janney and Ms. Davis radiated professionalism and poise. They were both very nice and encouraging of us young performers. I soaked up every opportunity to learn from those amazing women." username="iplaylikeagirl"] It was also fun working with him because I'd previously seen his comedy shows and thought he was VERY funny. 

What was the filming experience like for Troop Zero? I’d imagine pretty different from what it was like on set for anything else you’ve done.

As a first movie/film experience it was amazing. I heard from the veterans it was different than most film sets because the atmosphere was so loving and welcoming. The directors, Bert and Bertie, both made the set as chill and fun as possible. We all had a great time filming even though it was was very, very hot in Louisiana in June! 

Have you had the chance to work with any of the younger actors previously? Was the chemistry between you and your younger cast mates those characters or did you develop your own formula?

I didn't know any of the other kids previously, but the first day we were all together, eureka! The perfect compound -- within 5 minutes, we became best friends. We have stayed great friends, and we will be forever. We see each other anytime we can, and I can't wait to see them next week at the premiere. 

How do you balance acting with school and regular kid stuff? Friends? Extracurricular? Study? 

Ha ha, that’s a good one. I’m home-schooled, so my studies are more flexible, I have a planner, and I have play dates and sleepovers like a normal kid. Honestly I’m not that different than most. Really, my extracurricular is acting!

Anything new in the works that you can share?

Last fall, I was able to participate in the reading of a new musical in development for Broadway, and I am hoping it will get funded because I would love to have a future with that show. Other than that, I’m just waiting to hear back from a few things I auditioned for.

What advice would you give to girls your age who have a desire to get into acting?

Start with seeing as much theater as you can and then start auditioning for local theaters or school plays. Yes, auditioning can be intimidating, but its worth it! If you get in to any local plays, nice! If you think its not for you, that’s ok! I’m sure there are other things that will fit your interests better. Figure out your talents, like singing, dancing, acting. Find the one, or more, you want to work on, and start lessons for those.  Stockpile some memorized monologues and songs in your repertoire. And remember, if you don't want to do something you don't have to, but if you don’t want to because your scared you’ll mess up, you should try any way or you might miss something incredible. And of course, be yourself!