Wonder Girls, a nonprofit organization in New York and New Jersey, is on a mission to help all young women build the confidence, leadership, community, and business skills needed to meet any of life’s challenges. Founded in December 2020 by Natalie Maniscalco and Irene Zervoudis, co-founders of the popular organization with nearly 300 girls enrolled this year, customizes programs for schools and community centers aimed to connect middle and high school girls with a network of diverse, multicultural professional women who share their real-life experiences and offer a level of mentorship beyond the classroom.
“My favorite thing about Wonder Girls is that it truly is a family, they welcome anyone and everyone and I have been able to connect with so many other girls and women who want to support each other and help girls like me flourish,” said Caila Barrieros, Wonder Girls ambassador and a senior at Lyndhurst High School.
Teens are led through a variety of interactive workshops covering topics that range from confidence and self-esteem building, problem-solving and leadership skills, to personal finance, resume writing, and interviewing, as well as the requirements for future educational paths and career exploration. There is no topic the organization doesn’t cover whether it’s through its in-person workshop, annual events and campaigns, or virtual program. Conversations are authentic, real and raw so that girls feel prepared for real-life situations and challenges.
“We want our girls to understand the importance of perseverance because life is not one linear journey, nor is it easy for most, but at the end of the program, we want our girls to be able to stand on their own two feet with confidence and do whatever they put their mind to,” said Natalie Maniscalco, a step-mom and public relations | marketing specialist.
Sounds empowering? It is and here’s your chance to get your school or teen involved! The organization is accepting more school applications with a start date of January 2023 or September 2023. However, if you’re eager to start now, Wonder Girls offers an open enrollment to the Bergen | Rockland community group for 7th to 12th grade girls. Check out the details here.
Wonder Girls is also offered in four other schools in both New York and New Jersey including North Rockland High School, Fieldstone Middle School, Cliffside Park High School, Garfield Park Academy and soon to be in Lyndhurst High School starting in January.
When listening to co-founders Natalie Maniscalco and Irene Zervoudis describe the mission of the Wonder Girls Organization, their passion, determination, and commitment is inspiring. “We believe that every Wonder Girl deserves the opportunity to thrive as leaders of their own lives and this is the time where they need to learn life skills that will set them up for the future. We always tell our girls, ‘Be the CEO of your own lives!’ so they start taking ownership of their words and actions,” said Irene Zervoudis, mother of three teenage girls and a mortgage professional.
Wonder Girls fills a need among young women to build camaraderie and provides a judgement-free zone of supportive women that can share similar experiences, upbringings, and concerns. While the program teaches leadership skills, the founders recognize that not all young women will start their own company, become a boss, or necessarily attend college. Wonder Girls gives girls the tools, support, and confidence they need to set the foundation to become healthy adults and mentally strong women.
“It’s so important for teenage girls to know that there are other girls out there that feel the exact same way as them,” said Maniscalco. “They need to learn to become the best they can be individually, without comparing themselves to others. Life throws so many ups and downs at us, and girls sometimes need to just hear that everything is going to be okay.”
As part of the core program, Wonder Girls partners with local non-profit organizations to provide the girls with hands-on volunteer and service experiences every month. This past year the group partnered with Unbrideled Heroes, Bergen Volunteers, People to People Food Pantry, Meals-on-Wheels, Keep Rockland Beautiful, Bridges, The Center for Safety and Change to name a few.
“It’s important to expose the girls to new opportunities where they learn how to work together and support each other. The girls leave feeling like they’ve made a difference, which boosts their confidence and makes them feel like they can do anything,” said Zervoudis.
In addition to in-school workshops, Wonder Girls also hosts monthly events outside the school, including a Wellness Expo, a Women’s History Month event, an Anti-Child Trafficking Event and Campaign, and a Career Expo. Throughout the year and at the end of the program, Wonder Girl seniors are provided the opportunity to apply for a variety of college scholarships. ￼
So, who runs the world? Wonder Girls!
Join the #wondergirls movement and get involved. Here’s how.