'I Am That Girl' at Elon promotes self-assurance
Founded two years ago by Alli Lindenberg '17, the Elon University chapter of a national nonprofit organization fosters love and support among young women who confront a daily barage of cultural expectations and media stereotypes.
By Brittany Barker ’19
A student organization that helps young women “become the best versions of themselves” has expanded more than threefold in recent years as a growing number of Elon University students identify with a mission of empowering women to realize their own self-worth.
Founded in 2013, the Elon chapter of “I Am That Girl” regularly welcomes upward of 60 students to weekly meetings that focus on topics that include health and wellness, self-esteem and identity, education, career, sex, stereotypes, and what it means to be a woman in contemporary society.
Modern society glorifies women who are thin, wear full makeup, and show no visible flaws, said chapter founder and president Alli Lindenberg, a junior human service studies major from Greensboro, North Carolina. “I Am That Girl” is a counterbalance to those cultural expectations and promotes healthier mindsets for young women of all types.
“Our main goal is to give people a space to discover and express who they really are,” Lindenberg said. “On top of that, the organization is really just allowing people to work on becoming the best versions of themselves, while creating a more positive and kinder overall culture.”
“I Am That Girl” conducts events on campus that allow the members to give back to their community while encouraging love of one’s self and the security of the body. Among the many events hosted or co-hosted in recent months by the student group:
- An appearance by Connie Sobczak, founder of the The Body Positive, who traveled to Elon from San Francisco for a program organized by Kappa Delta and Sparks.
- A "FaculTEA" gathering where students invited a professor that had inspired or impacted her during her time at Elon.
- A Student Speaker Series open to all students where five speakers from all walks of life talked about their passions, including a male freshman who discussed bullying and a female junior who shared her battle with anorexia.
“It’s turned into one big, beautiful community,” Lindenberg said. “'I Am That Girl’ is more than just an organization. It is also a way of life.”
“I Am That Girl” promotes four core values: love, support, giving back and speaking truth. The positive atmosphere has allowed the chapter to grow from initial participation by fewer than two dozen students to a current “realm of influence” of nearly 200 people. Nor are meetings and events open only to women; men have participated as well.
“Elon can be intimidating as a freshman,” said Kelly McKinney, assistant controller for reporting and investments at the university and the staff adviser to “I Am That Girl.” “This group specializes in being vulnerable and putting yourself out there and wearing your heart on your sleeve. If you go to a meeting and you're looking for connectivity, you have all of these women in a large group setting, leading with vulnerability. Every meeting is so positive and supportive."
The “I Am That Girl” national movement traces its origins to 2008 when Emily Greener and Alexis Jones founded the nonprofit in Los Angeles. More than 125 affiliate chapters have since been started in one of 16 countries around the globe, including the one Lindenberg had previously started at Grimsley High School in her hometown.
Elon University’s chapter was cited in the nonprofit’s 2014 annual report for its #lovemeformymind online campaign that tallied more than 350 posts and 13,000 impressions on social media platforms.
“People here are striving for perfection,” Lindenberg said. “I knew the people on this campus, especially the girls, could benefit from having a space where we would come together and talk about things that really matter.
"A space where we would show up as ourselves, instead of the person we thought the world wanted us to be.”
- Eric Townsend in the Office of University Communications contributed to this story