Sarah Hillware on Harnessing the Power of Girls
Meet Sarah Hillware, a dynamic and philanthropic young woman with a passion for healthy living and education. After a year as America’s Miss District of Columbia, she has become an outspoken advocate for many causes, including health education and the empowerment of women and girls.
Sarah founded Girls Health Ed., a research-based health education program for elementary and high school girls in the Washington DC area and one of her core missions in life is to make a positive impact on the lives of the most vulnerable through changes in health policy.
Sarah’s childhood experiences drove her to do the inspiring work she does today. As a teenager, she was forced to leave an abusive household and flee to a new city, a lifestyle which ultimately took a toll on her physical health and emotional well-being during a time in her life when her body was growing and changing.
Reflecting on that time in her life, she says, “healing came from the inside out.” Together with a supportive mother, she was able to overcome self-esteem and overweight issues, embrace exercise, transform her diet and change her state of mind. She says, “I was no longer a victim of circumstances, but instead, was able to take the reins of my life and start anew.”
Through her work with girls as America’s Miss District of Columbia, she realized that many girls, while they were thirsty for knowledge about their bodies, were not provided the resources they needed to be able to make healthier choices in their lives in order to become strong women who could lead and empower others.
Knowing that girls who come out of her program will be armed with the tools they need to navigate adolescence and emerge as empowered and confident women is an integral part of her vision and mission.
Although she has seen transformation time and time again, it’s not without hard work, persistence and a commitment to make things work despite obstacles that get in the way. She asserts that when something falls through or doesn’t go as planned, it usually means that something better and unexpected will come along if you maintain a positive outlook. Her positive attitude is addictive and spot on!
”An overarching lesson along the way has been to embrace failure.”
The girls she meets through Girls Health Ed. are her heroes and she is proud and quick to share how much she learns from them on a regular basis. She reflects on an 8 year old girl who questioned why health education was important and in the process of her own discovery, she realized that a lot of her grandmother’s suffering came from the fact that she didn’t have the resources or knowledge. Inspiring girls at such a young age who can turn to you with such profound insight and say “I’m going to take this knowledge home and teach and train my family,” is one of Sarah’s biggest rewards.
Her reach continues to expand as her passion for empowering women soars! She was selected to serve as a delegate to the G8 Young Leaders Summit in London, as well as the Nexus Global Youth Summit at the United Nations and was awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for service and leadership. She is also an ambassador and spokesperson for the Fashion Empowering Women Foundation (FEW), the International AIDS Conference, and Sudan Sunrise Foundation.
Sarah will be giving a TEDx talk at TEDxUNPlaza on September 16, 2013 entitled “Harnessing the Power of Girls” where she will present her research on why girls health education, and overall body awareness in particular, is so indispensable in adolescents, and how educating girl youth about these topics will ultimately not just transform their lives but also empower communities at home and abroad.
Photos provided by Sarah Hillware.