Empowering Girls’ Wholeness 

It was late August 2020 when Dr. Samatha Clemens contacted me to care for a complex educational and critical case. She said, “…the girls need you, Catie. We can’t think of anyone else but you,” she murmured over the phone.

Who is ‘we’?” I asked Dr. Clemens with curiosity and courage, calling myself an educational first responder these days as an educator in the 21st century. “UCLA’s medical team, this is a case that was made for you, and we can’t think of anyone else,” she explained to me during the continuation of more school lockdowns for the 2020-2021 school year. 

The two sisters, Bibi and Tindi, from Tanzania, Africa, needed a new educational plan. The girls were survivors of a brutal attack, as they were hunted for their body parts. Being a girl, an orphan with Albinism and disabilities, was a significant threat. Bibi’s leg and her two fingers were decapitated in the middle of the night, three days after their father had died from AIDS, during a sleepover with cousins. Tindi protected her sister and caught tuberculosis on her journey to the U.S. The healing journey and survival included years of surgeries, rehabilitation, and rescue by Malena Ruth, Founder of the African Millennium Foundation, and many other angels.

Before the pandemic, they were in school with a sense of belonging and purpose. They were playful and determined to learn, grow, and thrive as learners and leaders as new high school students. The global pandemic of COVID-19 impacted their student journey again, requiring them to pivot to a ‘new plan.’ The medical doctors expected both girls to stay home until a vaccination was available and COVID-19 was more manageable before returning to school and student life. 

Nearly four years later, Tindi, now Theaorda, completed her first year of college at California Lutheran University, studying theology and political science. Two months ago, Bibi accepted her college placement as a strong transfer student to the California State University, Dominguez Hills, because it is the ‘major of her dreams,’ a B.S. in Criminal Justice and Administration. Three days before my flight to Baltimore for our magical conference to connect and grow, Bibi updated me, “Catie, I got into all UCs and some privates, too. But, I say that is good for graduate school. I want Dominguez Hills. It’s good for me because this is my dream major,” her smile confirming to me through Zoom that her data-driven decision, which is full of purpose and ease, was Bibi’s fulfilled dream.

Last week, I was showered with welcome, support, and love at the International Coalition for Girls’ Schools Annual Conference in Baltimore. One principal shared with me, “This book will be in every school library, counseling office, and even an assigned reading,” and another educational advocate said, “You radiate with love and light; your book was needed yesterday, so go back to California and get it done,” giving me her sponsorship with love. Together, we were focused on empowering girls’ wholeness—for the future females who are change-makers, dreamers, and doers!

Over the last five years, I have created the Modern Toolbox for Success (accessible on my website as a free printable PDF) as a former school learning specialist to illustrate a courageous conversation supporting the student journey. The definition of success was important in our workshop conversation as “success is doing what you said you were going to do, consistently, with clarity, focus, ease, and grace” by Dr. Maria Nemeth—the power to observe and shift your brain with clarity, focus, ease, and grace is the key to success on your authentic path. 

I hope to bring inner-focusing tools for students to reframe, reset, and review as modern life skills for navigating life’s adventures, challenges, and uncertainties on the student journey with grit and grace. As my new friend Consolata Norbert, Director of The Mango Tree Girls’ School in Kenya, Africa, shared so eloquently at the closing ceremony, “Women are wonderful. Because of our nature, we hold the world as women and girls in our hearts.”

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