Impact Story

Alumna turns Girls Inc. experience into teaching moments

If you want to see the Girls Inc. Experience at work in the world, in one complete package, look no further than Rahni Stewart. A 2017 graduate of White Station High School, she’s now wearing her Girls Inc. legacy proudly as a confident, well-spoken and curious freshman at the University of Houston. But one of the most profound expressions of her Girls Inc. identity happened not in a classroom or lecture hall, but during a late-night conversation with a new college friend.

“We were hanging out late at night,” said Rahni, who goes by Reece with her classmates at school. “I was on my laptop and she said, ‘Reece, can I get birth control from Planned Parenthood?’ It was her first boyfriend and they were becoming sexually active. So I thought, ‘This is a teaching moment,’ and I turned off my laptop, turned to face her and said, ‘Tell me what happened.'”

She told her everything she knew about birth control and asked some more questions.

“I realized she had no context at all,” Rahni said. “I talked to her about peer pressure, the side effects of birth control, what she should feel and shouldn’t feel. And I said, “If you have any more questions, please come to me. Because I would rather you come to me and feel embarrassed than have you wind up in a situation you can’t fix.”

At first, her friend was indeed embarrassed and felt like like a burden. But she appreciated Rahni’s willingness to help.

“I’ve always been naturally maternal,” Rahni says. “And I’ve jumped in with friends on things I’ve gotten from Girls Inc. before, but never on that scale. That’s what Girls Inc. helps with – the basic foundation of what should be happening.”

That version of Rahni – the fearless advocate with a maternal streak – is no stranger to folks who’ve known her in recent years. She did, after all, represent Girls Inc. of Memphis in the summer of 2016 at a roundtable discussion about education hosted by the XQ Super School Project. She so impressed the staff they asked to interview her on camera (check out a clip of that interview.)

But that Rahni is a far cry from the shy, unsure third-grader who started Girls Inc. programming at South Park Center more than 10 years ago.

“Girls Inc. forced me to find my voice,” Rahni says. “Without Girls Inc. I don’t think I would be the person I am today.”

And these days that person moves pretty fast. Rahni is a pre-business major on track for a double major in marketing and entrepreneurship. The Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Houston is ranked second in the nation.

“Basically, I’m training to be the CEO of something,” she said. ““I want to open an education company that tracks the progress of students from sixth through twelfth grades and provides milestones for them to figure out what they want to do with their lives, and also allows students to virtually tour prospective college campuses from home. I can’t say much more than that because the technology doesn’t exist yet.”

She’s passionate about everything she does at school – from being part of an improv troupe to doing marketing and soliciting donations for her entrepreneurship club to relishing a care package (socks, Amazon gift cards, a water bottle and earbuds) sent by an acquaintance with the Memphis Chapter of The Links, Incorporated who has been sponsoring Rahni since she was active in our Eureka! program. And let’s not forget her classes.

“College is WILD,” Rahni said. “I was struggling at first conceptually, but I’m on track now to make straight As.”

And she still makes time to be there for her friend.

“Now she asks for all kinds of things,” she said. “Basic relationship questions. How to have a conversation with her boyfriend. And now when something happens, or she has a question, she just walks in and says, ‘Reece, we need to talk.'”