Throwback Month: Becoming a Leader Without Limits

At Girls in the Game, August is our “Throwback Month” to tell stories of alumnae, dig through old photos of our programs and see how far we’ve come. As we prepare for our new logo launch next month, we are excited to share where we started and how we continue to adapt to the needs’ of our girls and their communities. Follow our stories on FacebookTwitter Instagram!

Name: Imani Monroe
Student and Head Advising Fellow for Matriculate at Howard University
Three Words that Describe Girls in the Game: 
Unique. Influential. Extraordinary.

When did you start Girls in the Game? And Why?

I started Girls in the Game when I was about 11-years-old. At that time Girls in the Game had a lacrosse program during the school year where each weekend we would take the bus up to Northwestern University and the women’s lacrosse team would teach us how to play lacrosse. This is the program that initiated my love for Girls in the Game. That following summer I became a participant in Summer Camp. After that, when I began high school I joined Teen Squad and stayed a member throughout my high school career. During the summers after my junior and senior years of high school, I worked as a Junior Counselor for Summer Camp.

Imani Summer Camp
Imani as a Junior Counselor at Summer Camp (far right).

Why do you think Girls in the Game is important for girls in Chicago?

I think that Girls in the Game is especially important for girls in Chicago because of all the negativity and violence that surrounds young people in the city. I look at Girls in the Game as being a home away from home for girls, somewhere where you can feel safe and at peace.

Girls in the Game shows girls that there is no limit to what they can do and accomplish in life. Girls in the Game gives girls opportunities that they wouldn’t receive at their schools or in other programs. As a black girl from the South Side of Chicago, I believe that without Girls in the Game I would have never been introduced to sports such as lacrosse and rugby, or gotten the chance to sit down with CEOs from top companies with Teen Squad. One of the most important things Girls in the Game does is teach girls to be comfortable with and respect themselves.

How has Girls in the Game impacted your time in college?

When my leadership skills are recognized, I always mention that I gained these skills from Girls in the Game. When I started Girls in the Game, I was quiet and reserved and I truly believe that the different activities and lessons from Girls in the Game helped me to come out of my shell and be assertive.

I believe that Girls in the Game coaches saw potential in me and pushed me to be a leader. I used to have a feeling of not being good enough or qualified enough, and oftentimes I doubted myself, but Girls in the Game taught me to step outside of my comfort zone. I was a Junior Counselor at Summer Camp for two years at Girls in the Game, meaning I was partially responsible for a group of young girls. I had no choice but to be a leader and an example for these young girls.

Girls in the Game is a part of the reason why I chose to take a lead role on my campus for a national nonprofit called Matriculate. Matriculate’s goal is to help low-income, high-achieving high school students get to college by having college students walk them through every step of the college application process. I serve as the Head Advising Fellow on Howard’s campus where I am not only an adviser for high school students, but I also manage a cohort of 30 Howard students and train them on the necessary curriculum to serve their high school students.

Imani Matriculate
Imani at a training in New York for Matriculate.

This opportunity alone has opened so many doors for me, in the past six months I’ve been to LA and New York City, all expenses paid, to participate in conferences and trainings because of my work with Matriculate. Without testing out my leadership skills at Girls in the Game, I don’t think that I would have applied to take this big role on, and I wouldn’t have this wonderful experience.

What are your goals for college and for your career? 

I am currently a rising senior, biology major and chemistry minor, at Howard University with plans on attending medical school and becoming a pediatrician. I’m currently trying to make the most of my college career by involving myself in programs and organizations that have values that are important to me and that will prepare me for my life after undergrad. I’ve always had a love for science and a passion for working with younger children, which is why I want to be a pediatrician. Once I become a pediatrician, I plan on opening a health clinic in Chicago in an area that needs it most.

Throwback Month: A Camper’s Story

At Girls in the Game, August is our “Throwback Month” to tell stories of alumnae, dig through old photos of our programs and see how far we’ve come. As we prepare for our new logo launch next month, we are excited to share where we started and how we continue to adapt to the needs’ of our girls and their communities. Follow our stories on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram!

Name: Nichole Witter-Graham
Occupation: Clinical Coordinator for Lemak Health
Three Words that Describe Girls in the Game: Encourage. Empower. Leadership.


When did you start Girls in the Game? 

I started Girls in the Game when I was an 8-year-old camper. My mother had seen flyers around the neighborhood for an all-girls camp. She was so thrilled that there was an organization out there geared toward empowering young girls.

What was your favorite part of being in Girls in the Game?

I would say my favorite part about Girls in the Game is the environment. It felt so freeing to be in a space where I could be my own! I felt that I had so many amazing older girls and young women to look up to that I could aspire to be one day.

Why do you think Girls in the Game is important for girls in Chicago?

I think Girls in the Game is important in Chicago because it gives girls a safe space to be who they want to be. In our world today there is so much negativity, body shaming and so-called standards on “how to be.” I think young woman who are enduring this in our generation need a place that tells us each and everyday that we are okay to be ourselves, and that we are enough to make a difference in ourselves

How has Girls in the Game impacted your time in college and since college graduation?

Girls in the Game has helped me to remember that all things are possible if you believe in yourself. I was able to carry this with me through college and into my transition after undergrad. Since then I have continued to remember the strong women leaders I met in my life and how I can become one of them. This could not have been accomplished if it wasn’t for the positive exposure Girls in the Game shared with me!

What is your current profession and future goals for your career?

I am the Clinical Coordinator for Lemak Health in Prattville, AL. My career goal is to get back into Athletic Training in a collegiate setting. I would like to move back to Chicago to be able to help impact the lives around me in an athletic and leadership way.



Sneak Peek: Leader to Leader Interviews with Summer Squad by Bridget Murphy

Sports, health and leadership are the pillars upon which Girls in the Game is founded, but of the three, leadership can be the most ambiguous. At Summer Squad this year, leadership has manifested itself in confidence and curiosity. Both of these traits were on full display at our Leader to Leader interviews this past month.

Leader to Leader interviews are when Summer Squad is invited to visit a company and interview several of their employees. The teens lead the program, which includes introduction activities, an ice breaker and a panel discussion where the teens ask questions about the company and the day-to-day realities of the working world.

Because the teens lead the programs at these different worksites, participating in a Leader to Leader requires confidence not only in oneself, but also the Summer Squad program and one’s peers. The roles of leading each portion are divided between teen participants, and everyone has the chance to contribute to the program in some way.

The final part of the Leader to Leader interview is the panel discussion in which the teens ask questions of the leaders at the company they are visiting. This is where curiosity becomes a crucial part of leadership. At the Leader to Leader I observed at United Airlines, the questions started during lunch, where the teens asked about internship opportunities and ways to get involved with United. This continued into the panel discussion, where there was not a break in questions until we had to catch our bus home!

The questions ranged from what a typical day at United looks like, to what internship opportunities were available to specifics about the panelists’ positions, including the procedure for responding to an international terrorist attack. This curiosity to pursue opportunities for the future, and truly explore what those opportunities would mean on an individual level, show ownership over the Leader to Leader experience as well as drive to pursue novel career options.

Summer Squad teens with the United Airlines panelists at their interview.

The teens talked to a few of the tens of thousands of United employees, including people involved in everything from the catering of food on planes to those in charge of responses to cyber-attacks. The group was even able to see where the day-to-day operations take place for planes traveling in and out of O’Hare Airport.

In addition to United, our first round of Leader to Leaders took teens to Capital One and UnitedHealthcare, where each group could conduct its interviews as well as take a tour of the facilities. More importantly, teens were given the opportunity to network while exploring future career paths.

At UnitedHealthcare, Summer Squad teens learned about the healthcare field and exciting innovations for the future. UnitedHealthcare employees spoke of the possibility of 3D printing and the impact it could have on prescription distribution. This Leader to Leader opportunity opened eyes to careers in healthcare as well as atypical options for entrepreneurs and inventors.

Teens participate in an empathy training at UnitedHealthcare, learning how arthritis or other joint conditions can make simple tasks like taking medication in child-proof bottles very difficult for elderly patients.

The Capital One visit provided a sneak peek into the financial world. Members of Summer Squad receive a stipend for their time spent with Girls in the Game. For some, this is their first substantial paycheck, and the Leader to Leader gave insight into the world of credit and how money is spent.

The teens will participate in three Leader to Leaders over the course of their summer with Girls in the Game, only providing more opportunities for growth in confidence, curiosity and overall leadership skills.


Growing Up at Summer Camp by Iris Krandel

Sunscreen. Just the smell of it takes me back to my favorite time of the year…summer camp! From boat rides on the lake to hikes through the trails to dance parties in the dining hall, the memories are endless. Spending 13 summers at overnight camp lead me to no understanding of what it meant to celebrate the 4th of July at a BBQ or taking a big family vacation when my sisters and I were all out of school.

All I knew was that the second I got home from camp the countdown began again until that time of year rolled around. Being at camp was like going to a land far far away, and anyone who didn’t experience that just could not understand what they were missing. Lucky for you, I am going to share that with you today.  Not only did I get to try new things at camp, but I learned and grew in ways my parents and I had never imagined.

Iris young camper
Iris with her fellow campers & counselors in her early years of camp.

I was a weird kid. I don’t think there is a better way to put it. I could talk to pretty much anyone or anything that would listen. Anyone who knew me well always wondered what would come out of my mouth next. On top of that I had a questionable sense of style. Needless to say, I pushed the boundaries on what could be worn in public as “real clothes.” I rocked those flannel pajama pants and crocs during all hours of the day. I never felt discouraged from expressing myself, but I definitely did not feel like I ever fit in with my peers.

I spent so much time comparing myself to everyone around me (sometimes I still do). That is until I went to camp. At camp, you could be whoever you wanted to be, you could dress however you wanted to dress, and everyone belonged. The louder your voice the better your team did during color wars, the crazier your style the more people wanted to wear your clothes, and the more you invested in camp the more you got out of it. Camp did not make me feel like I had to fit in, it made me realize that it’s better to stand out.

After spending eight years as a camper, I became a counselor at the magical place that made me the person I am today. It was the most exciting time in my life because I finally had the opportunity to impact campers the same way camp had impacted me. I can so vividly remember seeing the first cars and buses roll into camp, and being so scared that I was about to take the lives of campers into my own hands for the next month. That anxious feeling soon turned into excitement.

The energy of the campers that first day was unreal, and I realized that the kids were just so thrilled to be there that nothing else mattered. I spent the next five summers growing as a staff member and becoming a supervisor for my last two years at camp. That meant teaching new staff members how to leave their mark on camp, and give campers the same experiences that many of the counselors had gotten out of camp.

Iris Counselors
Iris having fun with her fellow camp counselors.

This will be my first summer away from the summer camp I grew up at, but that does not mean I will stop the work I have started. I just have a new opportunity to change the lives of girls this summer at Girls in the Game. I hope that all those girls who are showing up on the first day unsure of who they are and where they are leave camp on the last day feeling confident in themselves. I want them to be confident about their bodies, confident about their minds, and confident that they can do whatever they want if they put everything they have into camp. It is not about how good everyone else is at the sport, how much someone might know about healthy eating, or how many friends everyone else has, it’s about being better than you were the day before and reaching your own goals.



Making Triathlon History by Ericka Dawson

Sister Madonna Buder is the oldest women to ever complete an Ironman Triathlon. In 2005, at the young age of 76, Buder completed the Hawaiian Ironman finishing with a time of 16:59:03.  A few years later, in 2008, she participated in the Ironman race in Canada, but was unable to reach the finish line before the 17 hours cut-off limit.  However, she didn’t stop there.  A year later, she entered the race again and completed in a time of 16:54:30, this time breaking her own record of being the oldest female to complete an Ironman Triathlon at 79-years-old.  Buder continued to compete in Ironman Triathlons for another four years, and in 2012 become the oldest Ironman Triathlon record holder at age 82.

Click here to watch Sister Madonna Buder’s inspiring story.

Buder, who has been given the nickname Iron Nun, was introduced to running at age 48 by a priest that told her it would be good for her body and mind. When asked about her training routine, Buder stated she runs to church every day and bikes 40 miles to swim in a nearby lake.  Regarding her diet, she eats mostly fruits and vegetables and adds carbs and protein powder to her meals.

She has broken national records and become a triathlon icon, sharing her passion for staying active with thousands. “We have all been given different talents.  We have to dig deep to discover them and when we find them, we are obligated to use them for the greater good,” Buder said.

Sister Madona Buder is truly an inspiration to all women, no matter their age. On the Girls in the Game Triathlon Team, we hope to support both the next Madonna Buder and the ordinary young woman who simply sets out to break her own personal record. Maybe some of the girls on our team will find their passion for triathlons, use their talents for the greater good and break national records, too.  And maybe some of them will use the skills they learn through competing in a triathlon, that grit, determination and teamwork, to push themselves to the next level in school or work. Whatever the case, at Girls in the Game we are dedicated to helping girls dig deep and recognize their full potential.  So, will you join us and register a girl for our Triathlon Team? Let’s break down barriers together!

tri meet
Click here to register for our Triathlon Team this summer!

Title IX Anniversary and the Women’s Football Boom

In honor of the Title IX Anniversary, our friends at Clubline Football put together a great infographic showing the growth of women’s football over the past 25 years.

They take a look at the pay gap between the men’s and women’s game to see just how big the gap really is and which women are currently at the top.

Clubline Football also looks at what football’s governing bodies are doing to continue the sport’s rise at home and abroad and how many women and girls could be playing the sport by 2020.

The Women’s Football BOOM! by Clubline Football.

Why I Love Girls in the Game Summer Camp

One of our Summer Camp Junior Counselors and longtime Girls in the Game member, Rose, shares what she loves the most about Summer Camp and being involved in our programs. If you haven’t registered your daughter for Summer Camp this year, make sure to do so this week! Our Open Houses are next week, and you can email Coach Alecia for more information:


Name: Rose
Age: 18
Favorite Sport: Softball
Started Girls in the Game: 10-years-old

What is Your Favorite Memory from Girls in the Game?

I think my favorite memory from Girls in the Game has to be all the times I went to overnight camp and was in charge of the tie dye rotation but also going toad hunting with the girls since some of them have never seen a toad.

If Another Girl Asked You to Explain Girls in the Game, What Would You Say?

If I had to explain Girls in the Game to another girl I would say that Girls in the Game is the most welcoming, nonjudgmental, and supportive organization which greatly impacted my life but it’s also a place where I am able to teach younger girls about sports, health and leadership and make sure they feel supported and part of a team just like I was when I was a participant.

How Has Girls in the Game Made You a Better Leader?

Girls in the Game has made me a better leader by teaching me how to work within a team and to communicate with my peers which has helped me with working in groups in school since I am comfortable taking the lead when needed but also letting my peers have an opportunity to be a leader as well.

How Has Girls in the Game Helped You In and Outside of School?

Girls in the Game has helped me in school and out of school by teaching me that my voice matters. Girls in the Game has also helped me by all the support I received which greatly increased my nonexistent confidence and self-esteem.

Why Did You Decide to Join Girls in the Game?

I decided to join Girls in the Game because it seemed like such a welcoming environment and I wanted to make new friends.