Meet Ayana W: She Puts the Leader in G.I.R.L.

Meet Ayana Watkins: She Puts the Leader in G.I.R.L.

The young women featured in this series have not only earned Girl Scouts’ highest honor by being named 2016 National Young Women of Distinction—they also serve as incredible examples of what it means to be a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™.

Being in Girl Scouts for 11 years taught me many things, but most of all, it taught me to use my voice to create positive changes in my community. And when it came time for me to start thinking about my Gold Award, it was my community that I thought of right away.

There’s an achievement gap among minority students, especially among African American students, which leads to lower GPAs and test scores, and increased high-school dropout rates. All of these things can and often do lead to things like unemployment, poverty, and even incarceration.

I’ve always loved to learn and wanted to find a way to inspire my peers to achieve higher education and do better in life in general. When I started researching the [achievement] gap, I realized there was a real problem in that there weren’t enough mentors to help guide African American students through the challenges of high school and college admission. There’s where the idea for my symposium, Education Matters in Black Lives, came from. I wanted to provide direct contact between middle and high school students and college students and education experts.

So I set up a symposium with high school and college counselors, as well as current college students, who could talk to and mentor 200 underserved students in the Sacramento area. Just having so many of my peers show up to the symposium was really exciting for me, but the best thing, in my eyes, was when one of the attendees said that they previously didn’t think they could go to college, but that now they wanted to.

If I’ve reached even one student and influenced them to empower themselves through education, I’ve done what I set out to do—but I hope that my message and the message of all the mentors I was able to involve continues to affect the young people of my town and my community in general.