An Interview with Amy Mintz

Back in February, I learned of a volunteer opportunity with eGirl Power — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit established to empower girls to improve their confidence, self-esteem, and reach their full potential. The key objectives of eGirl Power are to inspire, educate, and empower tween and teenage girls — and prepare them for college and career success.

I get to tell stories. In providing counsel to eGirl Power (http://www.egirlpower.org), I get to tell their story. Amy Mintz, the founder of eGirl Power, has an amazing story — and it’s one I want to share with you.

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Amy Mintz is very passionate when she talks.

The founder of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is passionate about education. She’s passionate about giving back. She’s passionate about devoting time to help those who can’t speak up for themselves.

Inspired by her late father, who dedicated his life and career to helping those less fortunate, her dream has been to make a difference in the world by helping others.

Mintz and her team — the people of the celebrated nonprofit Project Pay It Forward — are taking it to the next level with their new newest endeavor, eGirl Power.

“Our eGirl Power program spun off of Project Pay It Forward, with a mission to bring awareness to gender equality and support girls’ education,” said Mintz, who is authoring a book for eGirl Power. “With Project Pay It Forward, our purpose is helping youth to improve self-esteem and confidence. Unfortunately, girls are affected more than boys by low self-esteem and a significant lack of confidence. With eGirl Power, we narrowed our focus to empower girls to improve their confidence, self-esteem and achieve their full potential.

“In our program, we incorporate several approaches that I like to call the 3 M’s. Multimedia provides an engaging platform to raise awareness of gender equality, and a fun and creative way for girls to express themselves. Second, mentorship provides guidance as girls meet role models and learn the possibilities for successful career paths and potential college majors. Lastly, the multiple intelligences provide the framework for girls to explore and identify their unique skills and talents — and learn how those strengths can be applied.”

Mintz had a fascinating upbringing. Her father, Steven, was a diplomat with USAID (United States Agency for International Development) — and as the daughter of a United States diplomat, she grew up traveling across the globe. The enriching experience of living around the world had a profound influence on her.

Growing up in different countries allowed her to see varying levels of gender disparity and gender inequality. She has now made it her life’s mission to help others.

“It’s been something instilled in me from a very young age. And I feel very fortunate that it was,” she said.

“My father was my role model. He dedicated his career to working to alleviate extreme global poverty. Because of his career, we lived in many different third world countries throughout Asia and Africa. Living in these countries, where you see so many children that don’t have the opportunities for education that we often take for granted in the United States, you really see the power of education to change lives.”

She learned “the value of an education and the importance of helping others” from her father, who passed away years ago.

“It definitely has been something that’s always been an inherent part of my values and beliefs,” she said. “My father used to say to me, ‘How do you define success in a person?’ I think our society focuses a lot on superficial things to quantify success. But when I think about success, I think of somebody who is happy, fulfilled — and who is able to say they make a positive change in the world and other people’s lives. I define that as success. I got that from my dad.”

During her high school years, the Mintz family came back to the United States and settled in the Washington, D.C., area. She was on a “typical” career path until her father died — when she realized she wanted to build upon his legacy.

“His death devastated me,” she said. “It isn’t a grief you ever really get over. It becomes a part of your life.

“After he passed away, I decided to go into education to become a teacher. I had been doing graphic design and web design, which I had enjoyed. But when he died, it really made me stop and assess what I wanted to do with my life. I liked the creative aspect of what I was doing, but I realized I wanted to do something to make a difference like he did. So I went into teaching. I worked with disadvantaged youth at several Title I schools. Teaching is a lot of hard work, but the intrinsic rewards of helping children can’t be overstated. After teaching for several years, I left the classroom and founded my nonprofit organization — which is dedicated to supporting youth and education. I love what I do, and I’m able to reach out to even more youth than I could in just one classroom.”

While it wasn’t her first nonprofit program, Project Pay It Forward became Mintz’s first signature statement.

The mission of Project Pay It Forward is to encourage the youth to make a positive change by applying their special skills, unique talents and passions to make a difference in their community. Mintz said that when you inspire and encourage youth to volunteer and pay it forward, there are many benefits to the community. But the benefit to the actual child who is volunteering and assisting others helps to improve their self-esteem and confidence and instills a sense of belonging in the community.

eGirl Power is the logical next step in the process for Mintz. What makes the project unique is the multimedia manner in which it will be presented. Over the next year, her book will be followed by a graphic novel — which will be followed by an animated film. Mintz likes to refer to all of this as edutainment.

“The purpose of the book is to raise awareness in a fun and engaging way,” she said. “The MI9 Team is a group of superheroes who are all very passionate about different social causes, and they each represent one of the nine multiple intelligences. While the team is a mix of male and female characters, I wanted female superheroes to embody strength in specific areas where there remains a gender gap. So the experts of the team in STEM and sports are strong, confident women. And the leader of the team is a female who cares deeply about gender equality and supporting girl’s education, having overcome a lot of gender discrimination herself.”

“All of the characters have struggled through a variety of obstacles and problems, and so between that and the multiple intelligences, there are qualities in these superheroes that all young people to relate to.

These superheroes also go up against their adversaries, who characterize some very negative qualities, while the MI9 Team members represent positive character traits.”

The graphic novel is set to launch in October.

“The graphic novel is going to focus on two main characters in particular,” Mintz said. “Two sisters who are separated as children and wind up on drastically different paths in life, and the key factor in this difference is education. We see a lot of changes in their relationship, and a lot of internal changes and conflicts within themselves.”

Also in the works is an animated movie that will bring life to the story — an adaptation of the book, with the superheroes coming to life.

“I’m very blessed to be able to focus all of my energy and time on something I’m truly passionate about,” Mintz said. “eGirl Power focuses on supporting girls’ education and gender equality, which is so important.”

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