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Life & Work with Imani Henderson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Imani Henderson. 

Hi Imani, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today.
I was born in Saginaw but primarily raised in Texas. Living in a single-parent household, we experienced homelessness, food and clothing insecurities, and significant emotional distress. Once I graduated high school and transitioned into college, I reminded myself that I had control over how my life transpired, and I possessed the power to make sure I never had to revisit those life experiences again. Through therapy and introspective work, I have been able to address my traumas and hold myself accountable to the avenues of my life where I missed the mark. After graduating undergrad, I relocated back to Saginaw and eventually enrolled in a graduate school program for Public Administration. Upon graduating in April of 2022, I felt like I was at a place in my life where I was ready to try something new, so I proceeded with competing in the Miss Michigan USA 2022 state pageant. I attended as Miss Saginaw County USA and was able to conquer a lot of fears over the course of two days. I currently work in community development to help improve the standards of living and quality of life for residents. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have always had a passion for helping others, so developing Smart Girls Only was a natural maturation. Getting to a place where I was confident enough to provide this type of resource to other girls and women took time and was not easy. A year ago, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and adult ADHD. Being diagnosed with these disorders shed light on why I may have felt certain things or behaved in certain ways, but they also gave me the answers I needed to take action and continue my work in bettering myself as an individual. By seeing my therapist on a consistent basis, sitting with my tougher emotions, and being honest with myself, I was able to develop my emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Both of these skills are necessary to become a better person, and both of these skills require constant work. These are things that Smart Girls Only acknowledges and aims to help with. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Smart Girls Only is a non-profit brand that advances education on mental health and promotes the positive development of girls and women. You can find free downloadable content and worksheets on our webpage that support developing emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Eventually, I would like to pursue 501(c)(3) status but in the meantime, I am focused on broadening our reach and solidifying positive outcomes for the youth that I currently engage with. Smart Girls Only was recently welcomed by the Women Who Blossom summer program in Buena Vista Charter Township to speak to their participants. This opportunity gave me the chance to speak to them about challenging their thoughts, giving themselves grace, defining their own standard of beauty, and holding themselves accountable. These young women completed two of the Smart Girls Only worksheets and gave amazing responses to their prompts. Two lucky ladies were also randomly chosen to win gift baskets. The biggest things that sets Smart Girls Only apart from any other youth development collective is our focus on emotional intelligence and self-awareness. My goal is to give girls and women the tools they need to handle the emotions that impact them day-to-day and to conquer the emotions that feel like a constant weight. 

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
During my graduate program, I studied Public Administration with a special focus in non-profit and organizational management. I believe that non-profit groups are oftentimes the bridge that connects government services to its people. Success in the non-profit industry is subjective to funding access, business reputation, and who you know. I want Smart Girls Only to eventually evolve into a non-profit group that hosts family conferences and virtual workshops geared towards better parenting and youth development. Over the next five to ten years, I don’t see any big shifts or changes happening, but I would love to see more people get involved with their local non-profit groups to be the change they want to see. 

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