Houston Excellence: Karissa Littlejohn, Founder of WHYS Girls
Social media has created a world that makes you believe that you have to be half naked and twerking to be successful, and we are here helping girls redefine success for themselves.” Karissa Littlejohn, Founder of WHYS Girls
In a world that is easily influenced by social media, it is very difficult for young women not to get caught up in the hype. I recently got a chance to speak with Karissa Littlejohn about her non profit organization WHYS Girls and how it is helping make an impact in the community by setting young women up for success and exposing them to different options so they are confident to conquer whatever avenue in life they decide to take.
What does WHYS Girls stand for?
WHYS Girls stands for (W)omen (H)elping (Y)outh (S)ucced
What inspired you to create WHYS Girls?
I was working in in the school system with high schoolers and I begin to notice a lot of young women were graduating high school but they were not prepared for the next step. You could have a 3.5 or 4.0 GPA and still not know how to present yourself, so I wanted to be able to prepare these young ladies before they got out and tried to apply for college and apply for jobs. I also wanted to mentally prepare them skills that would actually be useful in life regardless of what they had to do.
With that being said, what types of skill sets and activities do you implement to teach these types of things?
We have a program at Sterling High School and we also have one in the community. What we do is cover professional communication, job hunting tips, interviewing, resume writing, time management, stress management, healthy relationships, conflict resolution… We also talk about physical health, leadership, boosting self-esteem.
When was WHYS Girls created?
I started it in April 2016 so it’s brand new.
If someone in the community wanted to sign there daughter up for WHYS Girls, what would the process be?
They can fill out an application on our website, www.whysgirls.com, or they can email us at email@example.com.
Now, we have mutual friends on Instagram and I saw one post Tech Me to The Movies, what is that and how did it come about?
It’s an awesome opportunity we have coming up for the girls. I have a friend, Krystal Carter, who is opening up a technology firm, Danny Kay Cloud, and for her inaugural event she wanted to partner with WHYS Girls to introduce young women to careers in technology. Minority women in technology are rare so the event is to get the word out about the careers that are available out there. A lot of people think that you have to be a doctor or lawyer to make 6 figures and women in technology are doing that. As we go forward we are looking to partner with people from different fields. I have a partnership with a lawyer in the works. We are trying to expose the girls to different types of career in law. My goal for 2017 is to expose the girls to different career paths.
Like you said, many girls don’t choose a career in technology, is it because they don’t see a lot of women doing it? Also now we live in the social media era where they are being exposed to different things on Instagram.
They don’t see women doing it and they don’t see women who look like them doing it, so they don’t even know that its out there and that’s what we are trying to show them. We want them to see that this is what you can do, whether you get a degree or a certification. In technology you don’t necessarily have to have a 4-year degree. You can have a certification and still make really great money. There is really a lack of exposure. Social media has created a world that makes you believe that you have to be half naked and twerking to be successful, and we are helping girls redefine success for themselves.
Have you faced any challenges since starting WHYS Girls?
You know what, it has been a true blessing to me. Everything has run smoothly from the moment I started I was able to connect with a gentleman who works in HISD, who was able to get us right into the school district so things have been smooth. With starting something new there are bumps with growth and sometimes those bumps can be slow. Overall, It had been a smooth process, and I am grateful to God for that.
I also see that you are a mother so how do you make time for it all?
Prioritizing. Really asking myself, “what is it that I really need to do today, what is it that can wait until later, and what doesn’t need to be done at all.” I feel that a lot of stuff that we have on our to do list is not necessarily stuff we need to be doing. We may think it’s important but we really haven’t evaluated it. So I have really been prioritizing since I’ve started WHYS Girls to make sure I’m effective using my time.
What is some advice that you offer your mentees?
The number one piece of advice I give the girls is to stay true to who you are. I feel like we get caught up in living by others people standards. If success for you is doing hair, do it even if people discourage you. If success for you is doing agriculture, be true to that and go for it!
For more info on WHYS Girls visit www.WHYSGirls.com