Sassy. That was how I would describe Tabriya*. She was the bully of the classroom and the girl who never backed down. I took her outrageous attitude in the classroom and challenged myself  to understand. I wanted to learn about the real girl hiding behind this facade.
One week our site had guests who would teach the girls ballet from our University. Tabriya seemed all but enthusiastic about participating and after intense encouragement from mentors she finally decided to give it a try. They brought tutus for every girl to wear and out of the corner of my eye I saw her pick one up and attempt to put it on. As she tried to step into it, she realized it did not fit. She stormed away and I saw the tears rolling down in her face in shame and embarrassment.
I ran after her feeling as though we had reached a breaking point in our relationship. She immediately began opening up about her body image. How she did not believe she was beautiful and pointed out all the ways her body was different from other girls. Without hesitation, I picked up her chin, wiped away her tears, and told her that real women have curves. Real women have hips. I told her to always embrace her individuality because that is what makes her gorgeous. I realized in that moment what I was giving Tabriya advice that I needed to remember.
After she cheered up, we joined the rest of the girls and the two of us ended up dancing the day away. The fact that Tabriya had enough faith in herself during a weak moment to get back out there taught me that I could do the same. I needed to remember to always have faith in myself no matter what obstacle stood before me. In the following weeks, I overheard her telling other girls what confidence means. This made me realize I had accomplished what I needed to do as a mentor. I had the unique opportunity to see cycles of mutual empowerment occur before my very eyes.
This year Tabriya is in the fifth grade and one of the most influential leaders at my site. She taught me there would be moments in life when I wavered in my personal level of confidence, but the biggest lesson I gained was to never let that stop me from finding success and to use those moments of uncertainty to inspire others. She has emerged as the strong girl I always knew existed. She is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in and most importantly has faith in herself. 20 years from now I will reflect on SWSG and remember every single girl I worked with. Tabriya, however, will always hold a special place in my heart. I will never forget the bravery she showed me that day and the confidence that she inspires me to continuously demonstrate in everything I do.

SWSG Pittsburgh - PROPEL
 Brittany Reyes, college mentor at the University of Pittsburgh, shares the incredible transformation of one strong girl.
*Girl’s name has been changed to preserve confidentiality.