From the Participants

“My two years of The Girls Empowerment Workshop were life changing. (Literally!) For the first time in my adolescent life I was surrounded by strong minded girls and women who provided me with a safe haven to share and discuss my beliefs, worries, and interests. We covered every topic imaginable; from sex, rape, suicide, drugs, self harm, to questions like “how do I use this tampon?”, and “is love even for real?”- and the most amazing part about it all was such a strong sense of healthy community. (And we had so much fun along the way!) I made friends I never would have made. I felt comfortable expressing a different perspective on topics I was passionate about. I learned a lot about women, a lot about myself, and a lot about being a member of a team. I saw girls sticking up for each other in class who knew each other solely from this program. I finally had the courage to discover and own my self worth- and I, for the first time ever, was proud to be a woman. Because of this program, I know that I am very smart, I am very strong, and I can absolutely do anything! Because of this program, I am truly empowered.”
– Taylor

“I was in The Girls’ Empowerment Workshop when I was in seventh and eighth grade and a mentor in ninth grade. As a junior in high school, I look back and wonder how different of a person I would be had I not gotten involved in the program. The Girls’ Empowerment workshop shaped me into the person I am today and I am so thankful to be a part of it, I learned how to handle challenges with dignity and strength. The workshops teach young women, locally and worldwide, that their potential is not defined by their gender. It taught me that I am not less than or greater than, but equal to men. The Girls’ Empowerment Workshop brings women, of all ages, together and uses the force of “girl power” to inspire women to stand up for themselves and others where there is injustice. After having been a part of this spectacular program, I am a better, stronger person who will teach other girls like me to respect themselves as well as others.”
– Julia

“Junior high isn’t easy… This was not a place where I felt comfortable or confident. Luckily I ended up joining the Girls Empowerment group. I was allowed to be myself, to be vulnerable, to ask questions without fear of getting laughed at. Not only did I learn important practical information, but I also learned that having self confidence and being assertive are important parts of being a woman. The Girls Empowerment group helped me realize that I don’t have to belittle myself or act dumb because of my gender. These were invaluable lessons and I firmly believe that all girls should have access to a program as beneficial as this one. Sending empowered, self-assured young women into the world will lead to the betterment of society in the future.”
– Raksha

“The Girls Empowerment Workshop has changed the way I see myself. I am no longer picking myself apart. I feel much more confident now. I totally feel more empowered to speak my mind. I have noticed that over the years I allowed others to make decisions for me, it is time for me to be my own person and let others know exactly how I am feeling. I loved how real the class was. I loved how we could talk about everything. I felt so comfortable… and looked forward to it each week.”
– Rhiannon

“I learned that girls need to stick together. We all have a lot in common, and could learn a lot about each other.”
– Sorelle

“You girls are awesome! Our last girls group ends March 5th, I am inflamed it has ended so soon but am so lucky I’ve had a chance to take part in the workshop. I can now go out into the big bad world feeling bold and confident. Thank you for your wisdom and strength.”
– Haley

“Through the GEW I learned not only more about issues I was already concerned about (how women are portrayed in the media, how women are portrayed in life, and how we can do our best to challenge those stereotypes), but I rediscovered my own drive to fight harder for these issues than ever before.”
– Aria

“I thought it was brilliant. I’ve had a lot of friends who had eating disorders and emotional problems… you could ask questions about anything and they would answer you.”
– Taylor

I learned how to better protect myself by saying “no”
– Anonymous Participant

“I learned how to be comfortable in my body”
– Anonymous Participant

“This class was a complete learning experience… a very cool place to release thoughts and grow with wisdom. Thank you!”
– Caityln

“This class was a complete learning experience… a very cool place to release thoughts and grow with wisdom. Thank you!”
– Anonymous Participant

“This class has taught me how to love myself. The most valuable lesson I learned is how to communicate with others and myself. I will be forever grateful for the workshop.”
– Emma-Rose

“I was able to get out of an unhealthy relationship with a guy because of what I learned in the assertiveness training..”
– Carla

“I learned a lot of great life advice. One… I liked a lot was to treat yourself as you would a friend. I have really enjoyed this class.”
– Kayley

“I learned that I can be open to things and not hide from my peers”
– Morgan

“I learned how to be more confident about myself”
– Anonymous Participant

“I learned to express myself and not be afraid to ask questions”
– Gabrielle

“I learned that is as important to value myself as it is to value those I love.”
– Paige

“In this class I learned how to respect myself. Even though all the girls come from different groups and ages, we all have similar problems and we can trust each other.”
– Brooke

“When you’re in this class with girls from the same school that you normally don’t talk to, you actually get a chance to learn more about them and open up and talk about anything.”
– Haley

“I learned about how to stand up for myself and how to protect myself. Thank you for this program. It helped me a lot.”
– Katie

“It surprised me to see a big group of girls who never even knew each other come to know and trust one another.”
– Anonymous Participant

“Giving advice to all the girls was really great, especially when I have been in certain situations they are asking about.”
– Kayla

“I learned a lot about my friends and that all girls share a common ground.”
– Paige

“I loved this class! It helps me feel comfortable about me and my body. I am so thankful for The Girls Empowerment.”
– Anonymous Participant

“It surprised me to see a big group of girls who never even knew each other come to know and trust one another.”
– Anonymous Participant

“I was able to ask questions because it was an all girls group. I was able to relax, so that I learn more.”
– Maritza

“This class helped me understand myself better, and helped me learn to stand up for myself, not be shy… I’m joining this class again!”
– Diana

From the Parents of our Participants

“My daughter has utilized some of the specific skills that you taught her in her current relationship with a very nice boy. It is her first “boyfriend,” and it has been a bit of a tumultuous ride. In working through some of the issues with her, she specifically referenced things she had learned from you. To me, that says you are doing something special for these girls, and for that I am deeply grateful. In addition, she also commented that she knew things I was talking about (from a movie) because she had learned them from you – yes, they are more “adult” in nature, but I’m so glad she learned them in a safe, appropriate, environment. She is a very innocent, kind, reserved girl. Girls like that can be “at-risk” when it comes to these issues, and I feel strongly that your program helped me be a better parent. I had no concerns before, during, or after, because your program comes with a long line of credibility in this community – parents I like and respect made sure their girls went to your program, and I feel the same way. I hope not only that it continues, but that it grows to include a boys’ version! Yes, she had the strength to handle things in a very mature manner, and has showed a level of wisdom and maturity I don’t think she would have had but for your workshop.”
– Carolyn Vondriska

“When girls are given permission to speak freely, no matter how sensitive the subject, a little at a time its starts chipping down the wall of fear that keeps them from expressing the fullness of who they are, instead of just reacting, they feel empowered to make an impact on the world. I saw the evolution of that with Raksha.”
– Akka B

“At Vista Real, many of our students struggle with obstacles in their personal lives that directly affect their academic performance.  On my supervising roster I have students who are transitioning to becoming a parent, who have suffered abuse, who are homeless, or who are experiencing a wide range of mental illnesses. Our students, many of whom are at risk of dropping out, need extra support due to these challenges. Girl’s Empowerment is one way that Vista Real can provide this much needed support. Girl’s Empowerment is a safe space for students to learn factual information while reflecting on their own personal experiences. Through incorporating student voice into the workshop discussion, students are able to take ownership over their learning and develop the confidence that is necessary to succeed academically and personally. Confidence is important for all young adults, but particularly for our students who are enrolled in an independent study environment. In this environment, students must advocate for their own learning — with no confidence it is difficult for students to participate successfully in our program. By the conclusion of the workshop, our young ladies were more informed on a variety of issues  including but not limited to: domestic violence, body image and eating disorders, sex trafficking, and healthy communication strategies. They are now able to take the practical, real world knowledge that they have built into the community to engage and educate other young women like themselves. In this way, through the workshop, they begin as students, but emerge as lifelong learners applying content to practice. If that is not the goal of an education — what is?”
– Laura Dixon, English Teacher

“Five years ago, I discovered a little more about Tobi.  Her compassion and empathy and passion about women having a voice and to stand in their own power, was instrumental in a challenging situation my daughter was facing.  It was more than I knew how to handle and Tobi reached out and invited my daughter to participate in The Girls’ Empowerment workshops.  She was 12 when she began the workshops and is, at the time of this writing, soon to be 18. My daughter was surrounded by other young girls who were facing their own challenges.  There was a new strength coming from her;  I believe it was due to her awareness that she is part of a group.  The workshops touched on so many facets that young girls to adult women face.  How to navigate these challenges is huge in what Tobi and her mentors bring to light.  I am aware that the problems do not go away, necessarily, but the awareness and empowerment offered is and has been hugely useful for my daughter and the rest of my family.  I had the honor of speaking in front of one of the workshops.  Looking into the younger eyes and knowing pain was everywhere in the room, all grades of pain, I cried sharing my pain and how I have learned as an empowered woman to stand in my power, accept that there are things that cannot be undone, but what to do with right now is much of my approach.  Oh, the questions and anxiousness and hope I witnessed and addressed, seemed like hope was rising in the young women, that there is the chance, once one does stand in their own power, of a happy and fulfilling life.”
– Stacey Jones, Owner of Ojai Coffee Roasting Company

From our Mentors, Volunteers & Guest Speakers

“Being a guest speaker at The Girl’s Empowerment Program was a truly soul-warming experience that inspired a new sense of connection for me. What a beautiful evening to share trials, tribulations, and truth with open-minded young women. The Girl’s Empowerment Program shares the core importance of compassion and authentic community support that is needed for young individuals to grow.”
– Caitlin Roe, Ambassador

“The Girls Empowerment Workshop Campout was an exciting and unique getaway to build trust and confidence in ourselves and others. In a short time, the girls and chaperones bonded beneath the trees, over good food and a campfire. We shared laughs and tears during an anonymous ask-anything Q&A circle. The honest and raw conversation transpired into a simultaneously emotionally saddening and spiritually uplifting space; each of us connected by our humanness and desire to be well. Collectively and individually we peeled back layers of painful truths, and extended hope and positive response to empower and life up one another. I listened to challenges and triumphs by some girls that boggled my mind. Their blunt admissions of harsh struggles forced the realization that everything is relative, we all endure pain and prevail in individual ways. It was beautiful to experience the capacity for love and resilience of the human spirit amongst a group of young humans united by a desire to positively affect the world. Our tribes provide support and foster a sense of unity that makes us better and stronger together. Ultimately, the villages that raise us are where change stems from. I am immensely grateful for the insight I gained into the lives of young women who are strong and competent beyond measure, each one changing the world with her presence of being. The radical group of teen and young adult women involved in Girls Empowerment Workshop are positively affecting the fundamental nature and confidence of girls and women, ultimately creating a ripple effect that benefits our local, national and international community.”
– Cheney Caldwell, Camp Chaperone, Ambassador

“It was a delight and an honor to experience an evening of contribution, inspiration and connection with the lovely young ladies at The Girls Empowerment Workshop. I enjoyed the authenticity, struggles, humor and wisdom the other speakers offered, as well as the challenge to extend the same when sharing my personal journey. The Girls Empowerment Workshop is a wonderful example of the support, encouragement and positive mentoring that is available when someone such as Tobi Jo steps in with passion and commitment to bring true empowerment into the lives of young people.”
– Elizabeth Reynolds, Guest Speaker : Founder, Lux Amore

“Sharing intimately with young women in a safe environment reminded me of ancient times, when elders shared their wisdom and laughter with the youth. Thank you to the Girls’ Empowerment Workshop and those involved for this amazing opportunity …it was a truly amazing experience, so rich and multi-generational…i feel that the brave women who shared probably got as much from the class as those who listened…vulnerability never felt so good!”
– Amber Lennon, Guest Speaker

“Thank you for the opportunity to share with these young women, trusting in us and bringing us all together…How brave all these young ladies are. Brave to be so open and trusting, to share. I think we all walked away feeling more human and not so alone.”
– Carolyn Murphy, Guest Speaker : Super Model

“I believe I got more out of this program than I gave. I was truly blessed to have the opportunity to be there with the girls.”
– Katrina Dolan, Guest Speaker : Owner of Pure Skin Wellness Spa

“I am so proud to be a part of a program that teaches girls to be strong, stand their ground, voice their opinions, and to make good choices. I truly believe the girls empowerment program is making a positive impact on many lives, including mine and my daughters’. I encourage all you young woman out there to come and be a part of this group.”
– Joanna Carr, Camp Chaperone, Guest Speaker, Workshop assistant

“I really enjoyed talking to the girls yesterday and was so inspired by the other speakers as well. For each to share her intimate story, to give a peak into life and all the possibilities and twists and turns that life takes. Your program is a life-saving gift. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
– Jodi Womack, Guest Speaker Owner: No More Nylons

“After being in The Girls Empowerment Workshop as a student in eighth grade and again in High School, being a guest speaker/ Mentor for the first time was really a great experience. I had talked about my experiences before. But when I did it with the full attention of all those girls on me it made me feel empowering, like I was helping them through my experiences. It kinda all sunk in and I accepted myself and everything I went through. I felt healed. It was a great feeling inside. I was so happy that I was able to just come out and say everything.”
– Karen Quizada, Workshop Alumnae, Teen Mentor, Camp Leader and Guest Speaker

“I cannot express the joy I felt being part of The Girls Empowerment Workshop; I was witness to friendships beginning, confidence expanding, self-respect blossoming, and plain old fun at every session. This program embodies my personal belief that through open, respectful conversations we give our children the greatest gift, knowing that someone cares and that they are essentially and forever worthy of it. The experience of a program like The Girls Empowerment Workshop is invaluable for youth.”
– Suzanne Feldman, Board President of Ojai Valley Youth Foundation