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Empower girls and young women in marginalized communities by helping them gain the skills necessary through education, training and mentorship to become confident, college and career ready.

HERstory of Our Founder, Betty LaMarr

Betty LaMarr conceived EmpowHer Institute out of her own personal journey that took her from pregnant teen at her high school graduation and welfare mom to college graduate and corporate executive. After a stellar career in corporate America, Betty relocated to South Africa to lead a Black owned business and create jobs for Black South Africans. Upon returning to Los Angeles, Betty and a small group of women dedicated to making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged girls and women formally established EmpowHer Institute as a 501(c) (3) in 2003.

Observing how young women in South Africa were pulling themselves out of poverty through micro-enterprise Betty decided to apply an “entrepreneurial solution” to the endemic dropout rate among African-American and Hispanic teen girls in Los Angeles. Initially, EmpowHer Institute collaborated with NFTE (Network for Training Entrepreneurs) to use its curriculum and develop a customized signature program called E-BEST (EmpowHer-Building Entrepreneurial Skills for Tomorrow).

The E-BEST program delivered workshops focused on building high school girls’ entrepreneurial skills as a way of engaging, learning and preventing dropout. E-BEST workshops would impart entrepreneurial values, attitudes, and skills to girls with the highest at-risk rate of dropping out of school. In implementing the E-BEST program it became increasingly apparent that to improve academic performance for girls in marginalized communities, with a nearly 50 percent dropout rate in Los Angeles public schools, we needed to address the experiences and situations outside the classroom — pregnancy, low self-esteem, depression, family violence, sexual assault and other trauma – that profoundly affect their readiness to learn and achieve academically. We also recognized that, in order to be more effective at changing the trajectory for teen girls, it was imperative that we intervene earlier than high school.

In 2012, EmpowHer Institute turned its attention to serving middle school girls as young as 11 years old. We developed the EmpowHer Girls Academy program (EGA) and began collaborating with Title I middle schools to deliver the program. In contrast to the E-BEST program, which focused on developing entrepreneurial skills, the EGA program focuses on developing social and emotional learning (SEL) skills coupled with mentorship. The program utilizes SEL as a means of giving girls the skills they need to overcome the negative experiences and trauma outside the classroom – low self-esteem, depression, family violence, and sexual assault – that affect their ability to engage in school, perform academically, and reach their full potential.

In 2016, we established the EmpowHer Leaders Academy program (ELA). The ELA program provides continued support for EmpowHer Girls Academy alumnae as they transition from middle school and navigate through high school. The program utilizes mentorship and tailored workshops to provide girls with the information, support and tools they need to reach their full potential and thrive. Since 2003, EmpowHer Institute has positively impacted the lives of nearly 3,500 Hispanic and African-American girls.