Women's History Month Highlight
Updated: Apr 3
Toya Russell-Philips has made inspiring young women her life's work. "You have to see what you want to be," is her response when asked about the time and energy she's put into young women over the last 25 years. A Detroit native, she has spent the last ten years supporting girls in Atlanta and knows first-hand the impact that empowering young women can have on the community.
In a metro like Atlanta, where there are many examples of successful women, bringing girls face to face with possibilities is essential. Whether these women will serve as role models
or mentors, it is imperative to allow young women to ask questions, provide them with resources, and instill in them the necessity of giving back. Ms. Toya, as she is affectionately called by her mentees, provides all of this to young women through her "Girls of Excellence" (GOE) youth organization.
The program highlights academic and workforce preparedness, financial literacy, and self-care through the lens of social-emotional learning. "When they tell me what they want to be, my wheels are turning on how I can bring that to them." Her "why" goes all the way back to when she entered the world of higher academia and realized that she was unprepared, not only for college but in some ways for life. She recounts struggles in her push to catch up, admits she is stronger for enduring them and that she never wants to be that tired again. "My organization was patterned after my own life, but also the lives of many others. There was no real mentorship, no real support."
GOE provides mentees with resources to help avoid issues similar to the ones she endured. The young ladies learn the importance of self-education, networking, sisterhood, and ways to make their obstacles work for them. "I know how important it is to have support." Now the holder of an MBA, Ms. Toya was once a nontraditional student and is transparent with her proteges that everyone will have a different journey. She lets her testimony, the testimonies on the GOE board members, and any other women the girls encounter, through the successful women's G'initiative, serve as the reality of the possibilities available to them. "As a woman, you have to find a way and place by using all you have to create your being."
Women's history month is a celebration of the women that came before us, but it should also celebrate us. We've all endured challenges, we've all struggled, and some of us persevere every day without recognition or highlight.
Toya Russell Philips endured her struggle and used it as fuel to better the starting place of the women that came after her. She deserves her flowers now.