Two city teenagers win prize for col­or­ing book

Project to em­power girls hon­ored by Na­tional Youth En­trepreneur­ship Challenge

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Erica L. Green

Hope Sacco can trace her doubts about her­self as far back as when she was 6 years old, when the brunette asked her par­ents to buy her a blonde wig.

Anna Do­herty can re­call even in re­cent years be­ing so un­sure of her­self that she would shy away from speak­ing up in class.

De­ter­mined to move past their in­se­cu­ri­ties, the two Roland Park Ele­men­tary/ Mid­dle School eighth-graders teamed up on a project to help girls paint them­selves in a more con­fi­dent light.

The girls cre­ated “Girls Col­or­ing for Change” — a col­or­ing book that fea­tures prominent women of all shapes, sizes, re­li­gions and races. Their book beat out dozens of stu­dent projects from across the coun­try this month to win the Na­tional Youth En­trepreneur­ship Challenge.

They call the book the “Bar­bie An­ti­dote,” and say it re­places un­re­al­is­tic stereo­types with im­ages of real fe­male lead­ers.

“We want girls to know that no matter what they look like, they have the power to change the world,” said Anna, 13.

The women pro­filed in­clude former first lady Eleanor Roo­sevelt; Supreme Court Jus­tice So­nia So­tomayor; Dr. Leana Wen, Bal­ti­more health com­mis­sioner; former Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Margaret Thatcher;

Nige­rian writer Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adichie; and Malala Yousafzai, the Pak­istani ac­tivist who at 17 be­came the youngest per­son to win the No­bel Peace Prize.

The girls chose the list from their own in­spi­ra­tions, in con­sul­ta­tion with their so­cial studies teacher.

They have since up­dated it to in­clude lo­cal trail­blaz­ers such as Sen. Bar­bara A. Mikul­ski, and added a blank page for girls to draw them­selves.

Wen was in a Star­bucks when a wo­man ap­proached and asked if she would sign a book for a young ad­mirer — Hope. Hope had seen Wen speak at her school and was wowed by her.

That’s how Wen learned she was in­cluded in the same pages with Har­riet Tub­man, who helped free hundreds of slaves, and Saca­gawea, the Na­tive Amer­i­can wo­man who helped Lewis and Clark ex­plore the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent.

“It was quite a sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence,” Wen said. “I was very sur­prised, and very hum­bled.”

Wen said she iden­ti­fied with the girls’ mission to el­e­vate fe­male role mod­els. Wen said she didn’t have any women to look up to in the pub­lic health and med­i­cal pro­fes­sions un­til she at­tended med­i­cal school.

Wen, who came to the United States from China at age 8, en­tered col­lege at 13 and be­came a Rhodes scholar, is used to re­ceiv­ing ac­co­lades. But she said be­ing in­cluded in Anna and Hope’s book felt special.

“I don’t think that my story is ex­cep­tional at all, and I still don’t think of my­self as be­ing wor­thy of be­ing in a col­or­ing book with all these women,” she said. “I think it’s a re­minder to all of us that no matter where you are in your life and what you think of your­self, some­one is out there look­ing up to us. And I hope other girls will look up to them.”

To com­pete in the Na­tional Youth En­trepreneur­ship Challenge, hosted by the Net­work for Teach­ing En­trepreneur­ship, the girls cre­ated a busi­ness plan and pre­sented it at lo­cal and re­gional com­pe­ti­tions. As fi­nal­ists, they made a 60-sec­ond el­e­va­tor pitch.

Hope and Anna beat nearly 40 other teams to split the $25,000 grand prize, $5,000 in schol­ar­ships and $5,000 to use to­ward their busi­ness.

The girls say win­ning the prize was val­i­da­tion of a larger mission to help girls ex­pand their def­i­ni­tion of a role model.

“Any­one who in­spires peo­ple to just be the best ver­sion of them­selves is a role model,” said Anna.

“We talk about strength, and be­ing pow­er­ful, but all of my role mod­els have been kind,” said Hope, 14.

The girls’ project is the sec­ond from Roland Park to take the ti­tle. In 2014, Lilly DeBell won for her “Lilly’s Leg­warm­ers” project.

Roland Park Prin­ci­pal Nicholas D’Am­bro­sio said he was im­pressed not only with the qual­ity of the girls’ project, but also its thought­ful­ness.

“It’s clear that they’re pas­sion­ate about in­spir­ing young women,” D’Am­bro­sio said. “That’s why it was so suc­cess­ful. It blends their own pas­sion with a need that they saw for oth­ers.”

The book has been sold lo­cally at Shanani­gans Toy Shop in Roland Park since this sum­mer, and is avail­able on Ama­zon.

Flora Stelzer, whose fam­ily owns Shanani­gans, said the store jumped at the op­por­tu­nity to help the girls mar­ket and sell their prod­uct.

Stelzer said the girls were se­ri­ous about mak­ing their prod­uct more mar­ketable. They re­turned reg­u­larly to the shop to ask ques­tions.

“They were in­ter­ested in the me­chan­ics,” Stelzer said.

They cre­ated an ad­vi­sory coun­cil that in­cluded Flora’s son, David Stelzer; Karen Cough­lin, a graphic de­sign pro­fes­sional; who helped with lay­out and pre­sen­ta­tion; and Ha­ley Pars­ley, a Bal­ti­more School for the Arts stu­dent and editor of Beast Grrl Zine, and their class­mate and pre­vi­ous win­ner Lily Debell.

The project was spon­sored by Staples, which printed the first 100 books and gave the girls a dis­count.

So far, the girls say, they have sold about 300 books, at Shanani­gans and through Ama­zon, and also at fes­ti­vals and other func­tions. They’ve do­nated $200 of their pro­ceeds to the Malala Fund, and are re­search­ing lo­cal char­i­ties that ad­vance their cause to do­nate money to.

Shanani­gans has sold about 30 copies of “Girls Col­or­ing for Change.” Stelzer said they are re­quested reg­u­larly and sell out quickly.

“I don’t think I’ve sold 25 of any one col­or­ing book, so for us that’s a big seller,” she said.

“They made it in­ter­est­ing for a large mar­ket. They did a lot of re­search, and very im­pres­sive work, and it’s amaz­ing that they’re in mid­dle school.”

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Anna Do­herty, left, and Hope Sacco have sold about 300 copies of their book, “Girls Col­or­ing for Change,” which show­cases em­pow­er­ing role mod­els for girls.

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

“Girls Col­or­ing for Change” by Anna Do­herty and Hope Sacco fea­tures women such as former first lady Eleanor Roo­sevelt and Dr. Leana Wen, Bal­ti­more health com­mis­sioner.

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