Mentoring can improve lives, and that’s exactly what Ladies of Virtue (LOV) is doing. To bring more attention to LOV Clubs, a non-profit that empowers young black girls on Chicago’s South and West sides, I interviewed one of its members. Meet 17-year-old Kourtney Johnson.
Disclosure: This sponsored interview features a Chicago-based non-profit organization that is changing and empowering its young members, including Kourtney.
Interview with Kourtney Johnson, member of LOV Clubs
High school senior Kourtney inspires, as you’ll see in this interview. In addition to mentoring others in her local LOV, she founded a youth group called Homegirls, is a leader on the school debate team, sings in the school choir, and tutors regularly. As she explains below, Ladies of Virtue empowers her and provides support that so many benefit from. Ladies of Virtue is all about black girls breaking the ceiling, encouraging mentoring and leadership.
Hi Kourtney! How did you first get involved with LOV Clubs?
I first became involved with LOV in the fifth grade. My mom was friends with my eventual mentor Imani, and she told my mom that she thought that I would be a good fit for the program and that I would benefit from being involved.
Terrific! What have you learned about leadership during your experiences in LOV Clubs?
One thing that I think sets LOV apart from other mentoring groups that I know of is the explicit emphasis on leadership. Every year, each girl has to complete a service-learning project that has the ultimate goal of improving the lives of young girls that live in the southside of Chicago.
We also have to select a leadership role in each of our particular groups. When I was in the eighth grade, I was selected to be the project manager for my group, and it was the first time I had held a position that required that much responsibility. I clashed with my sisters in an effort to make the best possible project, but as time went on and support from my mentors, things just started to come together.
I learned how to not only lead, but to also be a leader with compassion and understanding. We ended up winning the first prize for leadership projects, and I am very proud of that moment to this day.
At a young age, you are already quite an insightful leader! You mentioned the importance of mentors. Can you expand on that?
I am of the philosophy that if you cannot see it, you cannot be it. Seeing powerful black women who take time out of their very busy schedules to give back to their community every first and third Saturday for eight years has inspired me immensely.
Having examples of what it means to be a virtuous black woman gives girls the tools to understand the steps that they need to take in order to see their dreams. Coming from communities that do not make it easy to succeed, having access to their breadth of knowledge about academics, relationships, and money management changes the trajectory of many girls’ lives.
Powerful on many levels! What empowers you at LOV?
One thing that had empowered me during my time with LOV is just being around so many like-minded young women. One of my constant motivators in my daily life is that I can’t let my sisters down. We have spent so many sessions talking about our future and what we need to do to get there, so I know always that I have so many people rooting for me.
Thinking about your future, you’re passionate about playing it forward. What are some ways to empower black girls in school and everyday life?
Society often tells black girls that they should think the worst of themselves. Stereotypes and assumptions of our character are lies that systemically invade our quality of life. I think one of the ways that I affirm my own power is education. I find that the most dangerous thing in America is an eduated black woman.
By using this education, I challenge systems of injustice that exist around me. Even if it’s a sly remark or a bad joke, I don’t let anyone speak down on black women around me ever. The mindset that I think informs this behavior from me is my inherent belief that I belong anywhere I choose to be. Imposter syndrome is very real, and it requires consistent faith in order to evade that belief.
I sometimes say affirmations. One technique that I learned in LOV is writing little notes of affirmations and putting them all in a jar, and if I ever start to doubt myself, I read one, and it encourages me to continue to have faith in myself and my abilities.
And your abilities are strong! You founded Homegirls, for one. What is this youth group’s purpose?
This group was founded for any young woman who felt that they were were not doing enough to further social justice in their community. Many people tend to forget that change cannot happen without those who were able to do the little things.
Mutual aid and other actions such are this are powerful within themselves so I wanted to let the people who were able to protest or resist in those overt ways, there are other ways to support a movement.
What inspired you to start Homegirls?
This actually came from the leftover passion that I had left from running for class president and losing. One [of] my campaign promises was to get students more involved in the community surrounding my school, so I figured that I would still do that regardless.
Speaking of which, you’re about to graduate high school – That’s exciting! What are you most looking forward to after grad?
The thing that I am most excited is to just see the person that I am going to become. The growth that I have achieved from my freshman year of high school till now is enormous. I am very confident that I will keep surprising myself in the future.
You are an inspiration, Kourtney. How can others get involved with Ladies of Virtue?
Our website is Ladies of Virtue. We have programs all over the South and West Sides of Chicago, and all the information to get involved is on our website!
Connect with LOV Clubs on Facebook too. Thank you, LOV, for supporting and empowering future leaders, including Kourtney Johnson. Let’s shatter gender and racial injustices, empower girls, and build positive communities!