Tedi + Sonya, Co-Founders of Sand Sisters Los Angeles
Tedi and Sonya have one extremely important mission, and that is to "make all girls feel seen, valued and heard." Known as the Sand Sisters LA, their non-profit organization uses workshops, fundraisers and a "self-love" club to empower the younger generation in an ever-changing world. Tedi and Sonya took time out of their busy schedules, after just launching their latest #GirlPowerful campaign, to talk the thecnnekt about what it takes to not only help shape a community of girls, but change the world for women and our future leaders.
Tedi and Sonya, can you tell us what became the catalyst for you two to launch Sand Sisters Los Angeles?
We firmly believe in the concept of “be who you needed when you were younger.” We grew up in after school programs because we had a single mom who worked to provide for us. Our specific mentors were our teachers, who made a lasting impact on our self-esteem and encouraged big dreams. Mentors are people outside of the home that nurture and give you support. Mentors can be found in many different community members—family members, coaches, neighbors or even people you don’t know that you find inspiring on TV. The hours of 3-6pm are the most critical hours to find activities for children. If they don’t get involved in positive activities, they an easily feel alone and be influenced by drugs, alcohol and sex.
Sand Sisters LA was founded because we saw a need for enrichment curriculum in after school programs that focused on self-esteem building, movement and female unity. From private schools to underserved communities, we wanted to help support, heal and empower girls of all backgrounds.
Together we developed a 10 week #GirlPowerful enrichment program that is led by our socio-emotional learning (SEL) interactive guided journal. SEL is when a student is encouraged to share their emotions, learn how to set goals and show empathy for their peers and the world.
The magic of writing original content for our Sand Sisters LA after school curriculum is that we both feel like we healed ourselves in different ways. By researching the benefits of sharing your feelings and writing down goals and dreams, we processed feelings from our own childhoods. We thought about the love and support we did have as young girls, what kinds of activities with adults that made us light up, but also what experiences we lacked so we can change this for the future generation.
What is the #GirlPowerful program and a fundraiser to help support it. What does it take, both figuratively and literally, to run such a thing?
#GirlPowerful is our after school program for girls 8-14. This age group is now called a “tween.” They fall into the confidence gap. In these important adolescent years girls’ bodies change, they become self-aware and they also start looking around and comparing themselves to peers. Girls lose 30% of their confidence at this time and unless they are exposed to positive programs like ours, which prevents girls from losing their self esteem, they may have to spend years trying to regain their self-worth to find themselves again.
#GirlPowerful’s purpose is to provide girls with the SEL tools to build a strong sense of self and to prevent some of the pain and negative self talk that we all find ourselves experiencing when we don’t feel confident. #GirlPowerful is a 10 week program that we teach in after school programs, community centers in underserved neighborhoods and we also collaborate with local studios to co-host our own tween workshops during the school year.
Your mission is to provide “encouragement and a sense of belonging.” Do you feel like social media has a direct impact on these factors in a young girl’s life?
Technology is a tool to gain access to more information. This can be a positive thing and a negative thing. Social media definitely impacts what girls are exposed to at a young age. Looking at pictures or videos of girls that seem to have everything: brains, looks, friends, travel, parents, etc. can be very misleading. Girls, even women, see a perfect picture and may start to feel emotions like jealousy, loneliness or not being “enough.” With video games, we have heard stories from our girls that random people send sexually explicit messages by using emojis to get around parental controls, which forces families to have to talk about certain subjects at a premature age. Our experience with technology is that it makes girls grow up way too fast. There isn’t as much time for innocence and childhood.
Parents need to be in front of this issue and set firm boundaries with their children when they gift them access to the internet. There are a lot of tools for parents to use to gain control of their family’s technology practice, including Common Sense Media and YouTube parental controls. We don’t think children should be left alone with access to the web because if they come across the wrong thing, they can never unsee it.
You both also mentioned that you host monthly events for an older group (beyond 14 years old). Is this because you believe society affects them differently?
We host monthly Self Love Club events for women 25 and up because the feedback from parents and friends was, “I want to be a Sand Sister!” So we started hosting events for women to gather and gain some new tools for their own toolbox. Just like the girls, each SLC is themed and they are given access to new information that they can later dive into if they felt connected to the concept. 100% of the proceeds from SLC feed back into our #GirlPowerful work in underserved neighborhoods. If you are in LA or know someone who is, we are here for you.
What are some of the tools you use to reverse the negative impact on all ages?
We believe in gratitude. It is the first place everyone should start that wants to heal. So many of us focus on the negative things that are happening around us, instead of celebrating the small things. We work in underserved neighborhoods where kids don’t eat food until 4pm, when we show up with a healthy organic snack. We work with middle school girls that are drunk in class because they are being raped at home and they turn to substances to cope with what’s happening to them. We work with girls who grow up not being able to access the park next to their community center because it is infested with gangs and violence.
We have found that our girls that have the least, practice the most gratitude. They are grateful for their shelter, water, family and after 10 weeks with us they are grateful for sisterhood and time to get to know one another in a safe space. And that has been the biggest lesson we have learned from them. In turn, we give these girls hope. We show them that power does come from within. We make sure they know reasons to be proud of themselves. We tell them that they aren’t their parents circumstance or their neighborhood. They can all have new stories. We truly believe that being born in America is a huge privilege and that education is the way out. So collectively with our girls and our women, we choose to celebrate the small things and be grateful every day.
What is the next milestone both of you are looking forward to?
Our current fundraising campaign video is live, which supports expanding and providing our #GirlPowerful program to more underserved areas of Los Angeles and beyond. We would love your support in donating and sharing our campaign. We believe ALL girls deserve to feel seen, valued and heard™. This summer we are taking the show on the road for a tour of the midwest. Austin to Kansas City. If you live in those cities come join our sisterhood. You can find our events on our website at www.sandsistersla.com. Follow us on Instagram for details @sandsistersla and to see our impact in real time.