For Fardowso, a high school senior from Milwaukee, the future is bright.
“I am passionate about many things - entrepreneurship, social justice, and refugee issues,” said Fardowso. “PEARLS for Teen Girls helped me realize all the possibilities that are open to me.”
Fardowso’s parents are originally from Somalia but Fardowso was born in a Kenyan refugee camp where her family lived before seeking asylum in the U.S. “I take a lot of pride in my background,” said Fardowso. “And I recognize the privilege I have to not have to worry about the things my parents went through. I’m so inspired to make a difference for other refugees.”
With so many passions, Fardowso needed guidance as she made decisions about her life and future. As a freshman in high school, her sister suggested she check out PEARLS for Teen Girls, a local organization that strengthens our community by empowering young women with self-development tools, guidance, and support to strive for better, brighter futures.
Donations to United Way’s Community Fund support PEARLS for Teen Girls.
Fardowso joined PEARLS’s college and career readiness program, which helped her find a summer internship and connected her with a mentor, Fatima. “My biggest challenge is that I get intimidated talking to professionals,” said Fardowso. “Fatima helped me understand that everyone is striving for something, even people far along in their careers. That helped me build confidence.”
Fardowso also participates in weekly group sessions led by PEARLS facilitators, many of whom are alumni of the program themselves. Here, girls can talk about what is going on in their lives without being judged, seek support from each other, and grow together. “The facilitators are so authentic,” said Fardowso. “I can be funny, emotional, talk about how I’m feeling, and ask for help. I can fully express who I am.”
During COVID-19, these sessions went virtual. While Fardowso misses the energy of being in the room with the other girls, the online sessions are growing on her. Facilitators have gotten creative with activities girls can do together online, and the virtual model has allowed girls from other locations or with transportation challenges to join in.
As she continues on her journey, Fardowso gathers strength and motivation from her experiences with PEARLS: “This sisterhood is phenomenal. I have been introduced to women from different walks of life and learned their truth. My passion is refugee issues, and hearing from other women who are just as passionate about their issues makes me so driven. I just know I can make a difference because of the women surrounding me.”
“PEARLS is a program that invests in girls, who turn around and invest in themselves and each other,” said Fardowso. “That’s how we change the world.”
Fardowso and PEARLS for Teen Girls remind us all that to live better, we must Live United. Donate below to United Way’s Community Fund to support this important work.