SWSG UMass Boston college mentor, Isabel Ortigozo, reflects on the power of mutual empowerment found at her mentoring site. 
Being a part of Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) has greatly influenced my future plans in life. I have always been an outgoing and energetic person and I love to make people smile and laugh. Hiding behind this vision of a happy, confident woman stood a woman of self-doubt. I would find myself laughing in uncomfortable situations, and holding myself back from chances I felt I did not have the ability to overcome. As I entered my senior year of college at the University of Massachusetts Boston, I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to join SWSG as a college mentor. Fellow students of mine have been a part of SWSG for a number of years and have raved about such an amazing program to be a part of. I was excited, nervous, and anxious all at the same time as it got closer and closer to my first day of mentoring.
I will never forget my first day. As four students from Simmons College and I walked into our classroom of 16-20 girls, all of their faces immediately lit up! Many of them have been a part of SWSG before, and some of them even recognized the students from Simmons who mentored the previous year. They were so excited and were so happy to be back. Some of them approached me with such curiosity! They wanted to know my name, my age, where I went to school, what my job was…the questions went on and on! When I told them I was 21 they all gasped and thought I was so old. I couldn’t help but laugh!  I had a permanent smile glued on my face the whole time. They’re interest to know so much about me made me feel important. On the first day I was a little overwhelmed, and shadowed the experienced Simmons students, but by the next week, I was not afraid to speak up. Being surrounded by such a supportive female community provided mutual empowerment. As the girls became more comfortable with sharing their thoughts and showing confidence within their ideas, as did I.
These beautiful, young girls have inspired me to follow my dreams and to not let my self-doubt, or anyone else for that matter, get in the way of my happiness. In my future I hope to have my own yoga studio where I can offer a safe and comforting place of love, support, and mutual respect to all beings. I now have the ability to be my own leader, and not a follower. These girls may think that we are here for them, but what they don’t know is that they are really here for us. These girls of SWSG have taught me that with perseverance and determination, I can get to where I want to be. You never stop learning in life, and thanks to SWSG I will take what I’ve learned and experienced with me everywhere I go, and in everything I do.
I can now confidently say, “I am strong”. 

SWSG College Mentor - Isabel Ortigozo
Isabel Ortigozo is a college mentor with SWSG UMass Boston
with aspirations to start her own yoga studio.