The Day – Beatrice Jennette mobilizes to empower the girls of Groton

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Groton – When Beatrice Jennette hears of girls participating in Strive for Self-Empowered Personal Success (STEPS), they often say that they have learned to make better choices in life and to appreciate their own self-esteem.

When she catches up with young women later in life, they tell her that STEPS is where they are. The program gave them the courage and confidence to keep going and not let life’s challenges hold them back.

Jennette, the founder of the Groton-based nonprofit focused on empowering girls in grades 6-12, received the Jacqueline B. Nixon Community Service Award last month from Groton Utilities.

Jennette, 60, said her own personal experiences led her to found the program.

Years ago Jennette said she thought she was a “superwoman”. She had just graduated from college, got married and was raising two boys. She was on her church board and went to night school to finish her studies.

“I thought life was ideal, but the cloak came off and that’s when I suffered my first of five brain aneurysms,” she said.

While some may see it as a tragedy, she saw it as a divine blessing.

Her family, friends and community members gathered around her to help her recover. Her best friend would stop everyday to give her a hug so that she would keep moving forward and not give up. Teachers at her children’s school and daycare called her daily to let her know how her children were doing, and the people she worked with also supported her.

“The support that flowed into my life from the community and those around me was immeasurable,” she said.

“I was surrounded by so much love, kindness, generosity and support, and I also realized how much we need each other,” she added.

As she recovered, she saw young girls go through different challenges. After she started to get better, she started to think about how she could give back to her community and decided to start STEPS.

She said she had low self-esteem as a girl and didn’t feel connected to her community. So she wanted to create the organization so that other girls didn’t feel the same way.

STEPS began with volunteers teaching a group of about 20 eighth grade girls in Marian Galbraith’s class at Old West Side Middle School about life skills and self-esteem, self-awareness, limits and expectations.

Since then, STEPS has grown to run in-person programs in three communities – Groton, New London and Norwich – and offers a program for girls in grades 6 to 12.

STEPS also offers a summer leadership program and a young women’s leadership day for girls in Southeast Connecticut. Last summer, STEPS received a state innovation grant and held a summer program focusing on science, technology, engineering and math in which the girls visited colleges and heard about the careers of women in the local community.

She said STEPS brings girls together in an environment where there is no judgment and where they feel safe and can talk about their fears and concerns.

In a typical year, the program helps between 150 and 200 girls per year.

She said the program would not be as successful without the men and women who have rallied around the program, the funders, the communities who support the programs, and the people who work and volunteer for STEPS.

Jennette said seeing the successes of young women and being there to support them fills her heart with joy.

Stephanie Flores-Aguilar, 14, a second year student at New London High School, said she was really shy and had low self-esteem when she was younger, but STEPS helped her gain confidence. it and to appreciate itself more.

Flores-Aguilar said Jennette is kind and caring: “I can tell just by the tone of her voice that she always wants the best for us and does so much work for the program to provide us with every opportunity to meet people. other people.”

Flores-Aguilar, who hopes to become a biomedical engineer, recalls listening to a talk on a STEPS program given by a Pfizer scientist working on the COVID-19 vaccine. She said the conference had inspired her, especially since the scientist is female in predominantly male STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Jasmine Kapetan, 19, a sophomore at Three Rivers Community College who is considering becoming an animator for Walt Disney, said STEPS has helped her come out of her shell, become more confident and love herself more. She tried out the STEPS variety show, a mix of fashion show and talent, and auditioned for her school’s talent show.

“Ms. B. has definitely helped me,” Kapetan said. “She is a very nice woman, I love her and she has really helped me. I feel like STEPS also pushed me, Ms. B included, to be the best myself in my life. “

Fatimah Mansour, 18, a freshman at UConn-Avery Point, remembers doing a poster in a STEPS program in eighth grade that said she was going to be the doctor to cure cancer.

“They’ve always pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves and it’s my ultimate goal to be a doctor and to help people,” Mansour said.

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