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There is so much to do in Fort Wayne - any time of year! We have a celebration planned for every weekend of the summer - and all throughout the year! Discover our festival tips and tricks.

About me

Denita Washington grew up in a supportive family with two loving parents. But what she learned as a young woman was that she needed more than a strong nuclear family to be successful in life. She needed people outside of her family—coaches, leaders, and mentors—shaping and affirming her identity. That network, which she luckily found among a cheerleading coach, a high school guidance counselor, and others, has made her into the woman she is today. Today, Washington owns her own home that she built in a beautiful suburb of the Southeast side, nestled between the city and rural community of New Haven.

She runs a successful program called Girlz Rock, which helps young women and their mothers of all races rise up through woman-to-woman support, mentorship, and leadership training. Denita Washington started Girlz Rock out of a desire to help girls and their moms discover who they are and live in healthy relationships with others.

This program for girls and moms in fort wayne is creating a powerful legacy of female leadership

But being a woman confident enough to launch her own leadership program and elevate her voice to serve in local government is not something Washington has always been comfortable doing. She remembers when she was in middle school, and her cheerleading coach at Metro Youth Sports named her culture of the squad. Washington serves the Fort Wayne community in various leadership roles today, and her work for Girlz Rock is on a volunteer basis.

From that point on growing up, Washington did not accept any leadership roles for fear of losing friends. At Blackhawk Middle School, she even turned down the opportunity to cheer on the squad because she was so afraid of what being a Fort might cost her.

Along with the birth of her boys, a new purpose was Wayne within Washington rooted in the affirmation and self-discovery she women from female role models in her life. She began to realize that her fear of leadership was rooted in the fact that she did not know the value of who she was or how to build healthy relationships with others. Girlz Rock workshops vary from health and wellness sessions to topics like dating and relationships. This realization became the driving force behind her decision to earn her undergraduate degree and work in educational leadership roles within the Fort Wayne Community and East Allen County School systems for 19 years where she launched various programs for girls at each school that she worked at.

Since then, dating volunteer-run organization, which includes both smaller school-based meetings and larger citywide events has served more than 1, young women in the Fort Wayne area. Bria Merritt, 15, is a member of Girlz Rock.

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She says, "My experience at Girlz Rock has been amazing. I started off shy at first and they helped me outgrow my shyness and become more sociable and friendly. I love it.

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Throughout the year, Girlz Rock hosts workshops with uplifting female leaders in Fort Wayne as speakers and mentors for the girls to learn from in various career paths and walks of life. One session might be with a wellness coach on easy ways to work out from home or how to identify your unique beauty.

Another session might be on healthy dating and relationships. Girlz Rock has even hosted sessions on redlining, food deserts, and other disparities in Fort Wayne, helping girls in underprivileged neighborhoods understand how these disparities came to be—and that they do not define their potential. Over the years, Washington has used her connections with area guidance counselors to grow Girlz Rock to include eight citywide events per year where about girls attend, along with 50 of their mothers.

These annual events collaborate with many other girl programs in the Fort Wayne area, giving them a common space to meet up and learn together. Yvette Merritt, left, and her daughter, Bria Merritt, both attend Girlz Rock events and have seen the power of its programming.

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Along with the tangible benefits Girlz Rock has created for girls and women in Fort Wayne, Washington is most proud of the more personal, often unseen obstacles her girls have overcome to achieve success in their lives. Collins, 26, was in one of Washington's girls program, Gems, at Paul Harding High School her sophomore and junior years. Her senior year, she was part of the founding Girlz Rock group that has grown into the powerful platform for confident women it is today. Washington was a family coordinator at my high school when I first got involved with the program, and I was drawn to her," Collins says.

From the time Collins was four years old until her freshman year of high school, her father was incarcerated, and she saw the toll it took on her mother and family. During her high school years, her mother became ill and Collins took on the responsibility of managing the household while caring for her too. Although she maintained her grades at school, she did not feel comfortable telling anyone there about the challenges she was dealing with at home.

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Instead, she leaned on Washington and Girlz Rock as her safe space to share what she was going through emotionally in an environment where she knew she would be understood and supported. Girlz Rock works with girls of various ages in different capacities.

In addition to her full-time career, she runs her own business in financial services which teaches individuals, families, and communities about the importance of financial literacy.

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While she was in Houston, she ran a similar program for girls fromcarrying on Ms. Washington's legacy. To this day, Jessica continues to assist Washington in various organizational support roles remotely and the two have remained very close friends.

Giving back and investing in the next generation to empower women to reach their full potential. It only takes one person to speak life to you and to give you an experience that can help you see yourself differently. The talks bring your spirit up. It has helped me to grow as an individual, to know my worth, and to not let anybody tell me I cannot sit at the table. It gives me that confidence and helps me keep pushing to achieve my goals.

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It has helped her grow and come out of her shell. I love the atmosphere, the leadership, and the ability of the program. It's amazing. Contact Subscribe.

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This program for girls and moms in Fort Wayne is creating a powerful legacy of female leadership Kara Hackett Wednesday, October 14, Girlz Rock is raising up female leaders in Fort Wayne. By Sierah Barnhart.

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Collins "Ms. articles by Kara Hackett. Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since.

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