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I'm Jen Landis, founder of Pincurl Girls. And this is the GIRLBRAVE podcast. Today I'm talking with 17 year old Avalena. Avalena is learning French, Medieval history and finds her happiness in dancing. And this episode Avalena talks about being the Co-Director of Global Relations and Expansion for Girl Up Nebraska and the Director of Impact and Advancement at Dream Equal are focused on gender equality.
We talk about everything from the pet project to get a cat called at school and absolutely love her definition of what it means to be brave. Stick around to the end and find out what her favorite thing is right now, which I bet you'll never guess what it is. So let's get to it.
Hi Avalena, how are you?
I'm doing great. Thank you. I'm really excited to be on your show. Thank you for having me.
Yeah, thanks so much for being here. So let's start off with, tell us how old you are and what grade you're in.
I am 17 and I am a senior in high school. Nice. So what is your typical day look like? Well, I get up around 5:00, and I go to dance practice for the Lincoln High dance team. And then I go to school. So I go to Lincoln High. I'm in the IB program there, which I really love. So, I have my day at Lincoln High and then right now I'm in the musical, so I have, I have musical practice after that, which is really fun.
And then I go home and I'm finishing up applying to college. So, I spend some time on that. I spend some time on my homework and then sometimes, I'll spend some time on work for a Girl Up or Dream Equal, which is, which are both nonprofits that I'm a part of.
So out of all those activities, which ones rise to the top of being like the most enjoyable or where you're passionate?
I really enjoy, well, I like them for different reasons. I would say Pomalinks, which is the dance team, and then the musical I really enjoy because I love, um, I love dancing. I've been dancing since I was two, and it's just, so that's kind of the best parts of my day because, because I just get to do something that I really love doing with other people who, who also love dancing but then working on Girl Up and Dream Equal is, also really fulfilling for me because I get to make a change, and do something that I really care about and help people that I care about. So that's, those, those things are the things that are most important to me.
So tell us a little bit more about Girl Up.
Yeah. So I got involved with girl up my junior year.I was a leader at Elliott Elementary with the program that, that helps girls become more self confident and learn more about, about what gender equality means, about, about being good leaders, being kind to people and that really pulled me in. I had such a great experience and with the girls and with the other leaders that I wanted to become more involved.
So, I started writing curriculum a little bit, and then I got interested in Dream Equal, which is, which is maybe a story for another day, so then this year, I applied to be on the Girl Up Nebraska Coalition as the Co-Director of Global Relations and Expansion for Girl Up Nebraska and I got it, which was really exciting.
And then I'm also, I helped to start a club at Lincoln High because Lincoln High didn't really have a lot of involvement in Girl Up and I wanted to change that.And I also had watched the documentary, Period, End of Sentence, which I found really moving. So, I started a club at Lincoln High with, with some friends that works to end period poverty in India.
So we're working with The Pad Project, which created the documentary Period, End of Sentence to fundraise so that women and girls in India can pursue education and financial prosperity. So yeah, that's kind of what I'm involved with in Girl Up.
And so if someone wanted to get involved in Girl Up, how would they do that?
Well, if they don't have a club at their own school and they're not living in Lincoln, the best way to do that would actually be to contact me. If you want to start a club or you don't, you know, you don't know where your club is. So my email address is a firstname.lastname@example.org. If you email me, we can kind of talk about about what it means to start a club and what your goals would be.
But if you want to join a Girl Up club that already exists, you can go to the girl up Nebraska website, which is www.GirlUPNe.org, that website provides the resources to get you in contact with people at your school who are involved or people in LPS who are involved with Girl Up.
So you also mentioned Dream Equal. Tell me a little bit about that.
Yeah, I am really excited about Dream Equal is a new nonprofit that was founded by Ina Bhoopalam, when she was 16 years old. And, so originally Ina's program, was part of Girl Up and it still is at the moment.
It's the elementary in the middle school programs that don't exist in any other Girl Up Club. And those programs are designed to help, you know, I as mentioned before, help young girls realize their full potential and learn leadership and learn about gender equality, but you know, Ina wanted to expand that program.
Something that she also realized was that in order for gender equality to work, in order for it to be, to be real and tangible, it has, you know, everybody has to be on board. So she wanted to involve, you know, all genders, in that, in that process. So I'm the Director of Impact and Expansion. So a lot of my work is measuring our impact and trying to reach out to schools, to create Dream Equal programs.
We have a brand new curriculum that I helped to write and so it's a curriculum that targets people of all genders and it's middle school and elementary school and I'm really excited about it. We launched on the 10th and yeah. Yeah. Which is exciting.
So I'm really excited to see where Dream Equal goes and I think it's going to be really successful and, I'm really excited about the work we're doing with that.
So what does gender equality mean to you? Like if, if there's listeners out there who are thinking, ok, gender equality, yes, I get that we should all be equal, but like how does it appear in our day to day?
I think day to day, there were a lot of, there are a lot of issues that girls confront that just, you know, if, if the guys don't notice because they don't have to deal with them and so, and so they might kind of perceive themselves as not being misogynistic or not like letting misogyny happen without realizing that it's happening.
So for example, at my high school, there's a lot of issues with girls being catcalled, which is, which is something that a lot of guys just don't have the experience of like having happened to them. So they, they don't even realize that it happens, but it happens every single day to me and my friends and to to girls at Lincoln High.
And you know, I remember at a debate tournament, when I was involved with debate, me and my partner who was also female, were told that, you know, our voices were too high pitched to sound authoritative. Or like, like we knew what we were talking about.
And so it's just little things like that that don't seem harmless, but also wouldn't happen to a guy that are kind of, um, the difference between gender equality and not and, and where we are now.
I think really what gender equality means is making sure everybody and working towards making sure everybody is of the mindset that, that you know, that all genders are equal and that, you know, should be treated with a level of dignity and respect that in the past has only been really afforded to men. So, yeah, that's, that's what I would say.
What would you, what do you do you and your friends do when you're, you were getting catcalled by guys, do you call it out? What's the best way to educate them on, "Hey, that's not cool?"
Well, unfortunately when you get catcalled, the safest thing to do is to keep walking. You know, guys like that, it's really, it's unfortunately not really safe to confront them because you don't know what they're going to do. But I think, the best thing to do, or that I'm, that I'm working to do is to educate the new generation.
And, you know, educate my friends, who are guys. So my work with dream equal and girl up where we, where we go and we talk to young people about gender equality and what it means to treat people, respectfully, I think that is, you know, has a really tangible impact.
I was on a panel for Inspire girls, Lincoln and it was all about gender equality as well. And, one of the things that stood out to me at the end is, it was all women and their daughters, but no brothers, no dads, you know, or very few dads. And so when we're having these conversations about gender equality, you know, that we need to learn to invite to or tell our family or our friends to join us in that conversation so they can hear it from our side.
Yeah. I definitely think that's something that's important and that's been, that's been missing, from a lot of gender equality movements. But, you know, we're working toward like Girl Up is very aware of of that, that lack of male involvement.
And we've had, we've had issues of boys not really wanting to be involved and seeing it as like a girl's movement but the club that me and my friend Kit Graff started, we've had some guys joined, which has been kind of exciting.
I think the fact that guys aren't willing to join gender equality movements is evidence that there's kind of a disparity there if they, if they don't want to do something because they think it's girly or only for girl because ideally it's, you know, this is a movement that needs to involve everybody because gender equality doesn't exist.
If, if all the women in the world believed in equality, there has to be, you know, it has to be everyone.
I agree that that's important. Very true.
So your mom recently was elected Mayor and I was curious from your point of view, like how was that experience and what did it teach you about self confidence and believing in yourself?
Yeah, I mean I, I have a lot of admiration for my mother. She's, she works really, really, hard and she's dedicated to her city and that, that dedication and her perseverance throughout her campaign, you know, when she's getting attack ads and when she was crazy busy and every single second on her calendar was full that she had such, like, she had such perseverance and such a strong resolve to continue and to do what she knew was right and to help in a way that she knew she could be impactful.
That kind of, I would say that strengthened my resolve to do what I was passionate about and to help the people that I wanted to help and I care about.Yeah.
What a great role model.
So this podcast is called GIRLBRAVE. What's your definition of being brave and do you consider yourself brave?
I think being brave is doing things that are difficult or that are intimidating in spite of your fears, because you believe in what you are doing, you believe in the goodness of what you are doing. Or it's something that's, you know, it's something that's important to you.
It's deciding that something is more important than what you are afraid of. And, I think for me it's a work in progress. We're not, as humans, programed to deviate from the pack, but there's a time and place where that's necessary. And so I think, I'm developing the skills and working on developing the skills to step up and to do, to do what's right, even if it's difficult.
Yeah. Uh, it definitely is a progress. Like it takes, you just have to do it over and over. I feel like I, explain it like, it's like exercising where you just gotta keep doing it or else it'll fall off and you have to start over again.
So do you ever feel self doubt and when you do, what kind of messages do you tell yourself to get over it and the courage to take that next step?
Yes, I definitely feel self doubt and worry, like is this decision that I'm making. Is this the right thing? Is this the best thing for the, you know, the nonprofit that I'm working with? Is this the best thing for me? Do I have time to do this? Or am I capable of doing this?
So I think there are few things that I do, one of which is to think about the physical steps and when I can outline it and say, okay, this is what I need to do to get this done. This is how much time I need to, to a lot, to each individual step. It kind of helps me see that it's, it won't actually be that difficult and that I capable of each individual step and therefore the whole.
And then also, it sounds like it wouldn't work. It sounds like it would be a detriment, but I think imagining the worst case scenario actually helps me to realize that it won't be that bad. Like even the worst case scenario, you know, I'll be fine. And you know, I can get back up and try again next time.
And then the other thing that I like to think of, and I think about this, what I'm about to, I'm about to dance or when I'm about to give a presentation or, or, you know, just do work and that's difficult. I think "I'm The Boss" and so, you know, whatever I'm doing, like "I'm The Boss" of it and it doesn't control me. I control it. And, that kind of just helps me get in the mindset of I can do this.
So yeah, those are the things I try and do.
Great. I love that. I love writing the list. I think that would be great to just like, Hey, all is, it is, all I need to do is this first one and then the second and then the third and yeah. Really breaking it down. Yeah. Yeah. You are The Boss too. Yeah. What keeps you happy and motivated?
So the main thing, that keeps me happy is dancing. I love dancing. It's a great freedom and wealth of emotion that you can express, that you can embody. And I just, it makes me so happy. Like for example, I used to be a ballet dancer. I don't take ballet anymore. I'm now involved with the Pomalinks dance team. And so that eats up a lot of my time.
I'm involved with the musical and they gave me a spot to do, to do ballet, to this really beautiful song, we're doing the music man. And so one of the most famous songs in that musical is still there was you. And, last Friday they let me just add live ballet. And it was, it was so exhilarating for me to do something that I haven't, I haven't done in awhile and that it just, it just made me so happy to dance. And it's just refreshing and rejuvenating and that that is something that makes me the most happy.
But also my family and my siblings, my parents, my friends make me happy. And then, I also really enjoyed color coding my planner, which is kind of more of a trivial thing, but that just, it's really satisfying to see it all, all planned out with the right colors.
What do the colors mean what? Like how many different colors do you have?
Okay, so I got a marker set for Christmas and I think it's about 12. And so each, each one is assigned to a different subject and they go in rainbow order throughout the day. Girl Up is a purple because that's one of our main colors. And then Dream Equal is a teal cuz that's one of the main colors for that.
Fun. I like doing that myself. So is there like a favorite thing that you found a song or a movie or an app or like a product that you're loving right now?
Well, I really like music from the 60s right now. I made a playlist recently of, of old music and it's just really fun to dance to and fun to listen to. And it's just really upbeat and yeah. So I really like, I really liked sixties music, I guess.
Well, thank you so much for being here Avalena, and I love what you're doing and I hope people reach out to you if they want to start a girl up or find more information about anything that you're, you're doing and The Pad Project. So thank you so much.
Yeah. Thank you for having me.
What does it mean to be great? Sometimes brave means scared or anxious, but trying anyway. GIRLBRAVE is a celebration of girls who are brave taking up space in the world. And thanks for listening. Join us next time on GIRLBRAVE podcast.