Cortney Robertson, founder of I Believe in Me Girls (IBIM Girls), possessed an unwavering desire to create a safe space for girls to learn, grow and be themselves without judgment. In 2018, the Baltimore resident answered the call. Robertson is an ambitious mother who also balances volunteering to fulfill her mission and working full time.
“I started IBIM Girls because I noticed that so many of our girls were dealing with depression and anxiety, dying on the inside and nobody was paying attention to them,” Robertson said.
The nonprofit leader explained that IBIM Girls’ mission “is to empower girls ages eight-18 to B.E.L.I.E.V.E (Become Emerging Leaders Inspiring Excellence and Values Everyday) through group mentoring and leadership training necessary to become responsible, productive and successful members of our community.” She feels that resources for girls are less than what is available for boys, especially when it comes to organizations.
Robertson, who attended Woodlawn High School, was raised by a mother in a single parent household in Baltimore. She knows the immeasurable benefit of having access to caring women who are a part of a girl’s village.
“I always say that I have the heart of my mother, because she is the one that always displayed an abundance of unconditional love; the spirit of my grandmother, because she is always willing to be of service to others; and the drive of my aunt, because she is the one that showed me that through hard work and discipline, I could accomplish anything,” Robertson said.
Programs offered through IBIM Girls include: “Free to Be Me,” a 10-month mentoring and leadership development program that incorporates weekly sessions. “Healthy Harvest Heroes,” a community garden project that provides access to fresh produce, encourages healthy eating habits and infuses STEM education. “Soaring for Success,” provides a college readiness and career development workshop series. It was designed to support IBIM’s mentees with post-secondary and college preparation and career development.
Robertson added that academic goals are addressed through the nonprofit’s partnership with STEMcx. The organization provides after school tutoring in math and science.
“Our goal is to empower our mentees and their families to be prepared to move on to the next level after high school,” Robertson said.
Lastly, the Believe in Your P.O.W.E.R. Enrichment Workshop is an annual all-day workshop. It helps participating girls to explore and nurture their own passions and spark new interests.
“Dynamic women in different industries are invited to share their passion and purpose by facilitating hands-on workshops for the girls,” Robertson said.
Robertson said that IBIM’s program participants have a chance to participate in community service activities. They give away backpacks filled with school supplies, help provide 50 Baltimore City students and 50 Baltimore County students with a meal for Thanksgiving and host a literacy night with K-3 through kindergarten classes.
Twelve mentors volunteer their time to support IBIM. Talisha Sessoms serves as a mentor and board of directors’ treasurer. She reflected on the reasons that she lends a hand to community youth.
“For me, as a Black girl who grew up in Baltimore City, it is important for me to support the youth in the community to give back in ways I wish I had as a kid. To be a positive role model and to share my experiences, my challenges, my successes and my shortcomings affords me the opportunity to pour into the youth and back into the communities that helped to shape who I am today,” Sessoms said.
Brittaney Major is the mother of 14-year-old Londyn Yancey. Londyn has been a IBIM Girls member for five years. After participating in a college tour of Morgan State University a few months ago, Londyn is now “considering her future.”
“IBIM Girls is giving the young ladies opportunities to see women succeeding in positions we’re so used to seeing men in — which is building their self-confidence. The mentors in IBIM Girls have become like big sisters to my only child,” Major said.
More girls like Londyn will have a chance to participate in IBIM Girls’ mentoring and leadership development program during weekends from September through June 2023. Meeting locations will be at the Sollers Point Multi-Purpose Center in Dundalk and the Randallstown Community Center.
Open enrollment for the nonprofit’s mentoring and leadership development ends on August 31, 2023. A limited number of spaces remain. Interested parents can register their girls for the program via www.ibimgirls.org. A nominal $25 registration fee is required for each participant. Monetary donations and a variety of volunteers are needed to support IBIM. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain details.