Building Girls’ Confidence
By any account, Baltimore teacher and Girl Scout alum Valencia Clay has become a bona fide social media star. She has 155,000 followers on Instagram and has had posts shared by Halle Berry and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Her posts haven’t featured fancy clothes, pretty dinners, or gorgeous vistas like those of some Instagram influencers. She posts about education, confidence, and cultural consciousness to an audience of educators and students. Valencia, who is Black, often calls attention to difficult issues that impact girls, such as “colorism,” the prejudice and discrimination that people with darker skin tones sometimes face, even from other Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
“I was excited [by the celebrity attention], but then I thought, ‘You’re doing great on social media, but what about the classroom?’” Valencia says. “I used to post with the intent, purpose, desire, and hopes that everything I was posting would help change education—but that goal was so broad. So I had to take a break because posting on Instagram wasn’t helping. Now, I am focusing on the students I struggle to reach.”
The roots of Valencia’s own cultural consciousness go back to her childhood in Harlem and her experience as a Girl Scout Junior and Cadette in a troop based in Greenburgh, New York, a historically black town in nearby Westchester.
“New York was a melting pot, and so was my troop,” she explains.
Valencia majored in elementary education at Morgan State University and earned a master’s degree from John Hopkins in special education as well as a certificate in supervision and administration. Today, she’s working toward her doctorate in education at John Hopkins while teaching eighth-grade English at Baltimore Design School and serving as an adjunct professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
And that’s not all. On observing how much conflict was happening among the middle school girls she teaches, Valencia co-founded the Flourishing Blossom Society—to help girls establish positive relationships with one another as they build confidence in themselves through mindfulness.
About all of her work—from teaching, to the Flourishing Blossom Society, to social media—Valencia says, “It’s always been about building girls’ inner confidence through service and art.”