"Failure doesn’t mean the game is over it means try again with experience."

Owner and operator of Make It Public, LLC, U.S. Army Veteran, a graduate student at Strayer University and an employee at Verizon Wireless. I first ran across GiRL on Facebook. I remember having a feeling of excitement and had an urge to share the advertisement on my business Facebook page. After feeling nervous about contacting Cassandra as I was a new business owner we connected and have since been in each other’s networking circle. Currently I am known professionally for being an enthusiast for the art/science of marketing. I have been told that I have excellent attributes such as customer service skills, unique work ethic, self-starter, one who thinks outside of the box, and attention to detail. I’ve also been considered a motivator. I have a knack for creating new ways to bring attention to a business, hobby, or cause.

I was honored by Cassandra through a request to become a part of GiRL. The decision was made in April for me to become an actual member of the organization and I gladly accepted. It is a privilege to be able to serve the young black women of our community and share with them my experience of life. This cause is very much needed as it is important for the young black woman to understand her worth in this world. We are depicted as dense or an uneducated people. Not only does GiRL advise these youngsters that they are beautiful or that they can dance, but that you are worthy of respect and equality. In my opinion this is the most important work that the organization does. The activities that I’d like to offer is a way to get the girls excited or motivated on their futures. Picking their brains to find out what they want to do with their lives and then motivating them to begin now to become as successful as they can be. What motivates me to remain involved in GiRL is the necessity for this organization. I believe in what Ms. McNeil is doing and will support her in whatever I can.

When I am not working… I’m still working. My brain never sleeps. I am always researching how to accomplish a goal for myself or for a friend or client. I’ve been in the business of loving or caring for others since I can remember. I actually volunteered my time as a U.S. Army solider. I have a heart for my fellow brothers and sisters in arms. Their sacrifice alone, that selfless service is among one of the ultimate ways to prove yourself as a humanitarian. I’ve received tons of work related awards for best customer service representative, most relatable, kudos from customers.

I would love to be remembered as a person who fell but got back up and continued to fight. My proudest achievement was remaining in school and continuing in a graduate program. I absolutely believe that GiRL will achieve a national status as a non-profit for our young women. Not only is it an honor to be a part of GiRL but my obligation as someone that has time, or lessons to pass on.

Megan Olivaria- Board Member

Sheila McNeil- Deputy Director

La'Netta Gaines- Secretary

Why and how did I come up with the concept of G.i.R.L.? “It came from an experience I had at my daughter’s dance school in Maryland. I desired to create a dance environment for young girls like my daughter, Madison Rose, and niece, Briana. A place that also embodies fun, development, and sisterhood!”

Cassandra really grew to love dancing in High School. She took advantage of every opportunity to dance at school even being a member of the school’s Pom-Pon squad for three years. She is a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where she received a BS in Social Work.

While attending NC A&T SU, I took advantage of different opportunities to give back. I even volunteered with the campus Domestic Violence program and received the 2002 Volunteer of the Year due to my commitment. I was also an active member of the School of Social Work’s Student Executive Board. After receiving my college degree, I made the decision to move to Washington, D.C. to pursue her career goals as a Social Worker in 2004. My first professional career position was with United Planning Organization 501©3 as the Long Term Retention Placement Coordinator of the National Y.O. (Youth Opportunities) Program in Northwest Washington, DC. I was able to work directly with youth participants and assist with the planning and completion of their long term goals. I even developed a paid summer internship program for the college students to attend when they returned home for summer break. I also worked with the District of Columbia’s Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment program and assisted with providing employment opportunities for more than 12,000 DC youth. Soon after, I changed careers to the field of Human Resources, but I still volunteered by tutoring and mentoring youth D.C. After 10 years of working and living in DC, I relocated back to Wilmington to be closer to family. I sought opportunities in Wilmington that would cater to the needs of daughter and niece. The G.I.R.L. organization currently offers a dance program which includes dance instruction, mentoring, fitness and volunteerism to young ladies of color. I enjoyed providing an extended support system to dance students and families.

DO YOU! No matter what be authentic with yourself and others. Be kind and giving for it is the greatest thing you can do in life. Don't let the naysayers get in your mind and keep you from living your dreams.

A Wilmington native and graduate of E.A. Laney High School, I relocated to Durham to obtain my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the BEST HBCU in the country--North Carolina Central University (Eagle Pride Amplified). I furthered my education at Webster University obtaining a degree in Human Resources Development & Leadership. I'm a mom of a 5 year old son, who is my life and very bright. :) I have since returned back to Wilmington to embark on a mission to become a entrepreneur and to be closer to my family. My free time is mostly devoted to my own personal development such as reading, and I spend as much time as I can with my son. I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. I love music, fashion, the beach, seafood and being around like-minded people. 

Professionally, I am known as the Founder and Director or Lambda Nu Xi Community Step Team, established in 2005. I have also worked in the New Hanover County and Durham Public School systems; specifically with children who were identified with disabilities. 

 I am very passionate about being a servant to my community and have always believed that my purpose in this world is to help others in any way I possibly can. By being a Board Member of GiRL, I believe that it only furthers a desire to reach the youth and be a mentor that I did not have as a child growing up. Our youth needs leaders that will advocate for them, when no one else will. What excites me about being a part of this organization and serve in the capacity I have been given, is that I see it being a huge asset for the specified demographic that has been established in reaching--Young African American girls. It is much needed with all of the issues we are facing today. This age group needs something for them. A vessel of love, understanding, artistic expression and compassion. I think that GiRL opens up a new way for young ladies to learn more about their culture collectively through group organization; a component that is much needed in our community.

 GiRL aligns with a lot of my passions. I love dance and the arts, it was and still is the fuel that keeps me going. It embodies a structure for growth in a society that is still battling many oppressions. I am a firm believer in creating opportunities that many have not been able to create for themselves. It is very hard to establish successful lives when you feel like the cards have been stacked against you. So we need more programs like this to keep our youth on a right path. I am a huge advocate for education; because once you have it, no one can steal the knowledge you have obtained. I also believe in entrepreneurship, as it opens the road to building, establishing and sustaining legacies. This is something unfortunately the African American community lacks, making it difficult to grow and thrive in the current society we live in. To me GiRL serves as a haven for young African American girls to learn about life outside their normal environment of public education and their home environment. The experiences they gain from being a part of this organization will be life- long lessons in whatever journey they chose to venture on. The substance of hope in being anything they put their minds to.

 Nicole Barnes- Organizational Development Specialist

“Make goals and accomplish them, then make new goals!”

As a Candidate for the Master's Conflict Management and Resolution program at UNC Wilmington, I found myself in a Graduate Assistantship with the UNCW Career Center. While in this position, I met the wonderful Ms. Cassandra McNeil, and she shared with me the goals and mission of the organization and I knew then I wanted to be involved with GiRL in some way, shape, or form. While obtaining my Bachelor's degree at UNC Asheville, I continued to work at Arby's on the holidays and summer months. However, in the fall and spring semesters I was employed as an intern for the nonprofit, The Center for Diversity Education as the Diversity and Inclusion intern. Which then catapulted my employment with AmeriCorps: Project POWER, where I obtained the position of a volunteer coordinator for ArtSpace Charter School in Asheville, North Carolina.

I am very passionate about community involvement and collaboration in all professions. This is what excites me most about getting more involved with GiRL. I hope that my experiences and skills can only enhance the future success of the GiRL organization. I am very passionate about books, all books. I love science fiction trilogies, historical biographies, and anything by strong women making a difference or a change for the better. Currently, I am reading 'The Year of Yes' by Shonda Rhimes and I cannot put it down or stop promoting all of my friends to take the time to read the book themselves. 

My favorite volunteer activity is usually at a food bank. In the past, I have experienced something new every time I spent the time to volunteer at Manna Food Bank in Asheville, NC. I always meet new people and learn how important donations are to any community. My biggest achievement was being published as a Community Engaged Scholar my senior year of college for my mentor program 'First Year College Mysteries'. I want to be remembered as someone who was not only smart and kind, but someone that was always reliable. I have a passion being a part of any organization that strives to make a positive mark in the community, especially to young females.

I became attracted to this cause because I enjoy passionate non-profit organizations and especially individuals who have a passion for youth and community involvement. The most important work that this organization does, in my opinion, is the mentorship and team building the young girls have not only with each other but as they progress in the community. I hope the organization will expand and become a nationwide known organization to encourage girl power, mentorship, and community engagement.

I am most proud of being accepted into graduate school. Coming from a small town it is surprising to those that leave and go to college, let alone complete college, and I have surpassed any expectations of myself and stereotypes given in the past. My mother inspires and motivates me on a daily basis, as a single mother raising two girls with low expectations of ever successfully raising two young ladies on her own. She overcame all obstacles and no matter the case always encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and reach for the stars.

My message to share with any young female is that there will also be stereotypes, obstacles, and low expectations that are thrown your way, and you may not have a support system in your corner. But whatever the case, you will not succeed unless you can be your own biggest fan. Countless times a day I have to talk myself into making each day the best day of my life, because if I didn't I wouldn't get out of bed. God Bless!

“Seeing our members of GiRL out in public and they run and give me a big hug, makes me very excited! I love the fact that I am a part of GiRL!”

I was born in Portsmouth, VA and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. I spent my teen years in Lumberton, NC where I met & fell in love with my best friend James McNeil. Family means so much to me and our union resulted in three beautiful children and four (maybe more in the future) grandchildren. I enjoy cooking with my husband James and we have even had several large catering engagements for our church and in our community. I truly enjoy seeing and hearing how everyone loves what we created!

I have been in retail management for over 20 years. My operational, organization and project management skills are great and have attributed to my extensive retail management career. I love going in and helping other stores that are struggling with visuals then seeing the end result and difference I have made. I desired to get involved in organization outside of my work life.

My daughter, Cassandra, had the dream of GiRL and her excitement pulled me right in and I have loved every minute of it. I love being apart of GiRL and I also love the fact that everyone loves my banana pudding. I love spending time with my family and this includes GiRL and church family. I have become increasingly passionate about being apart of GiRL and watching my granddaughters and other members grow as far as their dance skills and personalities. I love giving and doing special things for people. I would say everyone has something to share. Look into your heart and what you might think is nothing special, could turn someone’s life around.

Margaret Payton- Treasurer

There is an old saying that “If one door closes, another will open!” This became true and how I came into GiRL. This by far is the only organization with programs geared towards enriching the lives of these girls.

As the parent of three grown children, I was very involved in their school as a volunteer. Now that I am a grandmother, I continued being a supportive part of their lives. I have worked with the PTA, as an Officer (Treasurer) and PTA President. This was very rewarding knowing that these kids would have supplies and would also teachers receive much needed supplies. I also made sure that the kids were exposed to different programs brought to the school that was both fun and educational.

Being a part of GiRL is something that I can also help with by working along with the Director. Dancing, mentoring, community service are all the things to help GiRL become well rounded and prepare them for a FUTURE to be anything they want to be!

Cassandra McNeil- Executive Director & Founder