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Jefferson Award: Indianapolis woman empowers young girls with life skills courses

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 21:23:50-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good honors unsung heroes in the Indianapolis community.

Sonya Cooke’s goal is to empower young girls and provide them with a listening ear. Her mission is to make sure the girls who go through her Girl Talk Inc. program have all the tools, education and resources that they need to go out into the world and confidently say, “I can do this.”

“I want the girls to feel loved,” Cooke said. “I want them to feel that this is a true sisterhood. I want them to know that when they come to girl talk that I can be totally transparent, I don't have to worry about others judging me or things that I may say. Things that I may do. Because at the end of the day we are all trying to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.”

Cooke created Girl Talk Inc. five years ago as a way to reach girls and teach them life lessons so they are well equipped to make knowledgeable choices as they grow into young adults.

“She is so loving, she really listens to you,” 12-year-old, Kaelyn Vaughn, said. “Not like, ‘Yea mhm,’ like she actually puts her input in on things and she knows and she gives you advice that is really good and she just doesn't like you know, think of you as another person. When you meet her it is like a connection there.”

The girls enroll for an 8-week long course that takes place throughout the year, created by Cooke.

“She reassured me that I was smart and that I was kind and I was beautiful,” Dakota Toomer, a 14-year-old graduate of Girl Talk Inc., said. “Miss Sonya is like really amazing, like I love Miss Sonya like so much and I think everybody else should know that she is always going to be there for you and that she will like never like neglect you or anything like that.”

Girl Talk Inc. is open to any 10 to 18-year-old Indianapolis-area girls. Cooke implements important skills into these girls’ minds.

“It's like, it feels good to learn those lessons from her because we are following in the footsteps of an entrepreneur that has her own business and that is getting herself out there and trying to get more people in the program,” 11-year-old Brooklyn Williams, said.

Each set of courses focuses on specific topics like personal finances, health and wellness, conflict resolution, self-esteem and image as well as substance abuse.

“I learned about financial literacy about toxic relationships and healthy relationships, whether it be friendships or regular relationships,” 15-year-old Brianna Green said. “She doesn't make it about her, she makes it about everybody else. She puts herself as not necessarily last but like she puts everybody before her. And then she takes care of everybody.”

It’s lessons that Sonya says she wishes someone had helped her with when she was their age.

“She is really a special person and she has really impacted my life to be the best person I can be,” Vaughn said.

While these girls look up to her, they mean just as much and even more to Sonya.

“If I can just change one girl's mindset then that makes a difference,” Cooke said. “These girls make me want to get up every single day and go at it again. They are my motivation.”

The next Girl Talk Inc Indy session will begin January 9th.

It is $25 to register and covers the classes, served lunches, and a gift bag at the end of the session.

To learn more about Girl Talk Inc, sign up for a session or donate/volunteer, you can visit their website.

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