Change Your World: Keds Brave Life Grant Winner Emily Cole

This Fall, Keds gave away fifty $1,000 grants to help young women ages 13-24 bring their dream change projects to life. Emily Cole, a Girls Leadership Summer Program alumna, was one of the grant recipients.

How did you hear about the Keds Brave Life Project?

small_emily cole 1-1I actually heard about the Keds Brave Life Project from the Girls Leadership Institute Facebook page! My mom directed me to the post and I thought, “What could it hurt? Only good could come from it.”

What goal for change do you have for your community?

I’m using my grant towards my Girl Scout Gold Award Project, Unified Art, or U-Art. At my high school, “Unified” is the term used for any program that’s main focus is bringing together students in the special education program with students who aren’t. So far, we have Unified Theater and Unified Sports clubs, and a Unified Wellness physical education and health class.

For my project, I am adding a Unified Art after school program to the Unified family. U-Art will target getting past the outer shell of appearances and differences to find similarities in interests and traits on the inside. Participants will do this by working together on long term projects focusing on self expression, self exploration, and creativity.

I’ve been doing Unified programs since freshman year, and they are my favorite extracurriculars I do. It is a truly judgment-free zone that makes for a great environment to build genuine friendships.One of my really great friends is one I met through Unified Theater, and she’s going to be my co-head of Unified Art. I’m so excited to get started.

How is this grant going to support your goals?

large_emily cole 2Before being awarded the grant, I was nervous about how I was going to fundraise. Art supplies can be really expensive, so I was worried about how I was going to raise enough money for art supplies for this year, let alone years to come. Now that I’ve been awarded this grant, I’m going to have so many opportunities. One thing I plan to do with the grant money is to fully stock a U-Art supplies cabinet so that U-Art will have plenty of crayons, markers, paper, and more for years to come. In Girl Scouts, one of the main goals of a Take Action Gold Award project is that it has to have a measurable impact on the community. My plan is to do this through a movie. I want to feature pairs of students who have never met or talked about finding common interests or similarities with each other. The movie will show how U-Art has helped them get past outer shells and get to the core of who they are as a person. With the grant I can get a new video camera so students can film the projects, the conversations, and the general shenanigans that will ensue. That would have never been possible without the Keds Brave Life Grant.

What have you learned about yourself in this process?

I think one thing that I’ve learned about myself is that I really am capable of advocating for myself. While planning and speaking with numerous authority figures, there have been times where people have been difficult, or not as understanding as I would have hoped. Through planning this program, I learned not only how to advocate more, but how capable I was at doing it. I was able to get every “okay” I needed, every signature, and every approval 90% on my own, which was a really great experience.

Any words of wisdom for other Brave Girls?

large_emily cole 3My words of wisdom specifically regarding the grant would be that it’s always worth it to ask for what you want, because the worst thing that can happen is that you are told no. By applying, even if I wasn’t chosen, nothing bad would happen. I hadn’t lost any money, I’d spent time on the application, and so really all that could happen from applying was that I could win a lot of money towards my project. It’s a virtue I learned from my mom as well as my experience, and it’s helped me achieve some really cool things.

“it’s always worth it to ask for what you want”

My other piece of advice, as corny as it sounds, is to never give up. I had to go through a lot of people in order to get approval to start my project. Between people at school, people in Girl Scouts, and people in my community, there were a lot of people and several were not very appreciative of what I wanted to do in my community.

It was really hard to be rejected when I thought what I was doing could only be interpreted as good. But, because I stuck with it and kept moving forward and believed in my goals and wants, I was able to get through it. My project starts in January, and I couldn’t be more excited. So, that would be my advice. Nothing worse than a “no” can happen from asking for what you want, and to never give up, even when you think it’s impossible. Because I know for a fact that it’s not.


kedsWe are proud to collaborate with Keds on their Brave Life Project, a program that gives young women skills to be more confident, take healthy risks and build support systems. Keds®Brave Life Project™ launched in January 2013 to provide tools and resources to help girls realize their full potential. The project creates change through four primary strategies: inspirationknowledgeawareness and practice.

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