Positive role models encouraged Rachel to follow her dreams
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Positive role models encouraged Rachel to follow her dreams

Rachel joined Girls Inc. of Sarasota when she was just five years old. For Rachel, Girls Inc. has been a strong community of support and a second family. As a single father, Rachel’s dad recognized the need for her to be surrounded by positive, women role models to guide her and remain present in her life. For the past 11 years, Rachel found that and more.

From a very young age, Rachel dealt with loss when her mom died tragically. It wasn’t until Rachel was older that her father explained that her mom had suffered from mental illness and drug addiction for many years and had taken her life. Girls Inc. was exactly the right place for Rachel to develop a strong sense of self, embrace her strengths, confidence and resilience.

Girls Inc. staff and leaders served as mother figures for Rachel. One such mentor was Ms. Donna Brace Ogilvie, a very generous and admired philanthropist who passed away in 2015, at the age of 105 — and who was involved with Girls Inc. for 70 years, even serving as Board Chair of the national organization.

“Ms. Donna lived a remarkable life, influencing so many people. But what I’ll remember most was our tradition of having tea together, writing letters when she was away, and sitting together during the Girls Inc. luncheons. Ms. Donna was always there inspiring me to take initiative when it comes to my dreams.”

With the encouragement of Girls Inc., Rachel cultivated her love and passion for public speaking. She emceed the Sarasota County Girls Inc. celebration luncheon and a state rally for children. In 2014, she delivered a TedX talk on suicide prevention. For Rachel, public speaking has become an outlet to inspire and encourage others.

Today, Rachel is a senior with a 4.6 GPA, active in her school, community, and church, and excited about the future. She plans to attend a liberal arts college and major in philosophy or theology. Eventually, she wants to attend Princeton Theological Seminary, and get involved in ministry.

I credit my self-assurance and determination to the steadfast confidence these adults had in me at such an early age. Girls Inc. has shown me that this is not an obstacle, and that every opportunity is available for me to take hold of my future.