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Be Your Best: Empowering Girls Today for a Brighter Future

By March 6, 2020October 12th, 2021Community Volunteerism

Be Your Best participants at a recent graduation ceremony.

Several years ago, my friend Eileen Hence, Program Director at the Salvation Army, asked me for my help with Be Your Best, an after-school enrichment program for young girls. While I wanted to help, I was hesitant to say yes. I remember thinking, “Do I have enough time? Will I be able to handle the extra work along with my job and home responsibilities?”

I also considered what an opportunity this would be to help empower girls and invest in their future. For me, that outweighed everything else. So, I put my fear and worries to the side, and mustered the courage to say yes to the request!

That was ten years ago, and I can say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Teaching Girls to Be Their Best

Be Your Best is a 10-week after-school program, offered by the Salvation Army West Philadelphia Corps Community Center, that teaches social skills, etiquette, and life lessons for young girls ages 9 to 14. We also focus on developing the girls’ educational goals, career planning, and strengthening their character and confidence. We facilitate discussions, perform exercises, and feature special guest speakers to reinforce our lessons, with the goal of providing a practical, success-oriented learning experience.

The program grew out of the Salvation Army’s desire to provide meaningful and academically-based after school activities for young women. I think we’ve accomplished that. The program, now in its tenth year, has facilitated 19 classes for more than 140 students! Best of all, we’ve received a very positive response from the girls in the program.

Celebrating in Style

Each year, we host a graduation ceremony and tea party to honor the students completing the program. This is my favorite part because you can feel and see their excitement.

We whisk the young ladies away from the community center by limousine to the Sofitel Hotel in Center City. There, the girls have the opportunity to use their newly acquired etiquette skills during an elegant three-course tea party that also serves as graduation.

The girls, joined by mentors of the program, enjoy the themed event, delicious delicacies, and time with each other. Each graduate then introduces herself and shares what the program means to her. It’s a wonderful experience for us all.

Welcoming a New Class of Girls

The 2020 Be Your Best class kicks off on March 20, and I am so excited to continue to give back to the young girls of this community. I have witnessed firsthand the personal growth and development that the girls undergo through this program, and it inspires me to keep going. When we support our girls today, we’re investing in a brighter future for them.

You Can Make a Difference, Too

As program director for Be Your Best, we are always looking for diverse mentors and partners that want to help support the program. That’s why I am so grateful that several of my Independence Blue Cross coworkers have committed to join the program and help support the girls this year.

Thank you to all my Independence coworkers, who have generously shared their time, talent, and treasure to help improve the lives of these young girls over the years.

Now, it’s your turn. Are you mentoring or investing in someone else? You may think you’re not old enough, smart enough, or seasoned enough. You may think that you don’t have enough time. But, I encourage you to find a way to give back to the young people in the community. Your story, background, and life experiences are valuable. Find the courage to say yes, and you won’t be disappointed.

Invest in the youth in your community. Find local volunteer opportunities near you.


Collette C. McBratney

Collette is a Business Analyst in Medicare Operations. She’s dedicated to helping the Operations team serve customers with style and substance. Collette finds participating in the Know Your Value program, and serving on the Women of Independence core committee, challenging and inspiring. She and her husband, Bill, reside in Montgomery County. A favorite quote she keeps close to her heart: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the silent voice at the end of the day that says, 'I will try again tomorrow.'” — M. Rademacher