Student Profiles: Bria Toussaint, C'2016
Spelman sophomore Bria Toussaint is changing the world through service -- one girl at a time. The economics major from Virginia is the CEO and co-founder of the Girl Power Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit organization dedicated to building self esteem in young girls by exposing them to strong role models and engaging them in confidence-promoting group activities.
The Grl-Pwr story began when Toussaint and fellow co-founder Royal Phillips, two teenagers whose lives were fraught with obstacles and life altering situations, decided they wanted to make a difference. As young girls they struggled to overcome life’s challenges, including poor self-image, poverty, constant transition, and divorce. They also witnessed domestic violence and even lost a parent to a selfish murder.
Defying the Odds
Although statistics show that facing such challenges may contribute to young females engaging in destructive behavior such as eating disorders, self-violence, or result in underage pregnancy, the pair say they were fortunate enough to grow up around strong female role models who taught them the power of resilience. "It was this power that helped us combat life’s negative instances and avoid adding further challenges to our lives," said the entrepreneurial pair.
"We created Grl-Pwr to offer young girls strong role models similar to what we had while were growing up. We want to give girls the tools they need to be confident and successful and avoid the pitfalls statistics suggest should befall them. We understand that all girls, regardless of background, are vulnerable to self-esteem issues, and it is our mission to help girls learn how to love themselves."
Toussaint requires each Grl-Pwr participant to sign a contract that asks them to make 31 promises: “Think Positive,” “Be Nice to Others,” “Achieve my Goals,” “Don't Be Afraid to Stand Up for Myself,” “Respect My Elders,” “Be Nice to Myself,” and “Be Resilient.” She also uses the organization's 34-Day curriculum with her Grl-Pwr class at the Dulles Multipurpose center through the Loudoun County Parks and Recreation Services Department in Northern Virginia. She is in the process of finding and training mentors to carry out the Grl-Pwr curriculum.
Committed to Serve at Spelman
While her work with Grl-Pwr keeps her extremely busy, Toussaint is very active at Spelman. She is a member of the Bonner Scholars Program, and is committed to completing 10 hours of community service per week at KIPP Strive Academy in Atlanta where she serves as an office assistant as well as the assistant Spanish teacher in the kindergarten class. She also recently established the Grl-Pwr program at the school, and looks forward to being a force for good in the lives of the girls at KIPP. In addition to her own community service work, Toussaint is a Bonner Scholar sophomore intern who is responsible for training, mentoring and directing 20 scholars from the class of 2017.
Toussaint is pursuing a minor in management and organization at Spelman, and is a member of the Morehouse Business Association, the Morehouse Management Club, Spelman’s Protégé program, and the Peace and Love organization. The Virginia native has studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, hosted an exchange student, and served as a keynote speaker for the Sterling Women’s Conference and the Centreville Rotary Club in her hometown.
Pursuing Excellence in All Areas
Recognized for her achievements inside and outside of the classroom, Toussaint has received many awards including, the Career and Technical Education Student of the Year (2012), The Outstanding Student in World Languages Award (2013), first place in the Step up Loudoun Competition (2012), and honored at the Zeta Phi Beta scholarship breakfast for her commitment to community service, and for work with Grl-Pwr (2012).
Toussaint's plans for the future include attending law school at Stanford University to study non-profit law, managing the global nonprofit Grl-Pwr, and working in the private wealth department at a top fortune 500 company.