If you’ve been keeping up with The Phil lately, you’ll remember last month when we shared some amazing Virginia-based, Black-owned nonprofits to support. As a part of our research, we learned more about one of those organizations, Pretty Purposed, from its founder, Bianca Myrick.
What inspired you to start Pretty Purposed? Was this an organization that you wish had been around when you were younger – or was there a specific event that led you to begin that journey?
I founded Pretty Purposed due to my experiences as a young girl, growing up in an under-resourced community. I wish there was an organization like this [when] I was growing up.
Once I became a classroom teacher, I realized that, more than ever, girls need a safe space and so much more than just the academic curriculum. Although things [were sometimes] rough growing up, if it were not for the long-term love, nurturing and consistent support of those around me – such as my mom, family, teachers and mentors – I would not be where I am today.
So finally in 2015, while I had some extended time off of work due to domestic violence, I decided to use that time to heal, wrap myself in care and start Pretty Purposed.
What are some of the activities/lessons that you offer in your programs? Do you have a favorite one that you’ve done?
Our programs include group and one-to-one mentoring, school-based social-emotional learning circles and our advocacy cohort. Activities range from sessions on healthy cooking and fitness, self-esteem and self-care, goal setting and gardening, conflict resolution and communication skills, as well as career development and leadership [skills].
A favorite activity of mine is anything to do with healthy relationships or when the girls plan their own service activities within their community. They are so creative and innovative. I also enjoy when we go out together on arts and cultural-based field trips to the ballet, museums or to see a show.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect Pretty Purposed, and how did you respond to that?
Because some of our programs operated in schools, we had to immediately stop [that] programming. Virginia was the first state to shut down schools in March 2020. By April, we had already sent out our first care package to our girls. After that, we revamped to serve our girls through virtual mentoring and engagement activities for over a year. We made sure they could pick up materials to accompany the virtual activities and engage with their families at home.
Overall, it has been challenging. Our families are essential workers, many are nurses. Our girls were in virtual school for a year, and I always remind people that, collectively, there has been a lot of grief and loss. The pandemic not only impacted our girls and their families, but our staff, board and volunteers as well. Many of us shifted to working from home and had to manage virtual schooling for our own children. I know board members that have experienced death and illness with loved ones due to COVID-19. Collectively, it has been an adjustment for everyone.
What does Pretty Purposed mean to you?
Personally, the organization is a manifestation of girlhood and womanhood, the glows
and the grows. Everyone benefits when girls and women are healthy and supported. I enjoy serving my hometown and the surrounding communities where I live, work and play.
How has Pretty Purposed impacted the lives of the girls and their families?
Recently, I received a call from one of our girl’s caregivers at three in the morning. She and I had been corresponding about the program, late at night, and she asked if she could give me a call. We talked and she shared with me how the program had changed her granddaughter’s life. She shared that she sees Pretty Purposed in her granddaughter, and how she is more outspoken and speaks up for herself.
She shared that her granddaughter recently had an issue on her basketball team and she wanted to speak to her coach, as she felt confident about advocating for herself in a positive way. That is what we are here to do – support our girls so that they can have good self-management skills, speak up for themselves and be the best version of themselves.
What are some goals that you have for Pretty Purposed in the near future?
We have goals to have full-time staff soon and have our own building, as our girls shared that they want us to have our own space. Naturally, our goals are also to continue connecting and supporting our communities and schools by expanding to additional sites.
What are your greatest needs as an organization? What can people do to help?
Our greatest needs are long-term, consistent, flexible funding to support our organization and programs. Black-led nonprofits receive significantly less funding than white-led nonprofits. We have three part-time staff running multiple programs right now. We encourage individuals to donate, volunteer with us and amplify our voice by connecting and sharing about us on social media.
Is there anything else that you’re particularly excited about that you’d like to share about the organization?
I am excited to share that our first round of girls has just completed our inaugural advocacy cohort, which was led by Voices for Virginia’s Children. Our girls learned storytelling and advocacy skills and had the opportunity to participate in Advocacy Day at the General Assembly, where they spoke with delegates and legislators about issues impacting youth. We are excited about our girls using their voices, and we want them to know that their voices and ideas are valued.