Natalie Martinez -108

I had a lot of hopes and dreams, but I really didn’t have a voice growing up. I was shy. I was in the background. I had to figure out what I wanted to do in this world. -Natalie Martinez

The Executive Director & Co-President of Strong Women Strong Girls has spent her entire career in the non-profit world. The youngest of three girls and the daughter of a military man and a nurturing mother who was “her rock”, Natalie Martinez grew up in Mattapan not really knowing what she wanted to do with her life. Her career path was full of forks in the road, but there was one thing knew for sure: “I wanted to give back to the community. I want to see us all thrive.” With 18 years of experience in nonprofit management, she accepted the opportunity to step into a leadership role at Strong Women Strong Girls with open arms. An award-winning nonprofit launched in 2000 by Harvard undergraduate student Lindsay Hyde, the organization blossomed in Boston as a way of mentoring girls in grades 3-5 with a goal of helping them to develop skills for lifelong success. There is a reason why girls between the ages of 8-11 are the target for this curriculum. Research shows that a girl’s self-esteem peaks at about age 11 and if she doesn’t have a positive role model, her confidence and sense of self go down and girls in underserved communities are at especially high risk. Female students from area colleges served as role models within the original program model. By 2004, Strong Women Strong Girls was incorporated as a nonprofit and the organization expanded its footprint across the country. Today, Strong Women Strong Girls is thriving in Boston with 550 elementary school girls from 45 different community centers across the city and mentors from 7 area colleges. With corporate support from forward thinking companies, is able to provide mentorship for its college students by introducing their Strong Leaders Network. The mother of three daughters, Natalie says her message to her girls is the same message she brings to Strong Women Strong Girls every day: “Your path may not be like everyone else’s, but there is something unique in you that you have to contribute to the planet.” In other words: little girl: you can do anything! #swsgboston #storybehindhersuccess #mentoring