Being a teenage girl is hard. Being a teenage girl in the middle of a global pandemic is even harder. Carol Sun and Catherine Chu hope to make it a little easier.
This summer, the High School South seniors co-founded To Her, From Us, an online community that sets out to empower young women locally and across the country. The site features a blog, letter exchange platform, merchandise, fundraisers, social media accounts and more.
“We are aiming to create an open platform for young women to love themselves and embrace their voices,” Chu said. “Whether this be participating in a letter-response service with our audience, fundraising for female-empowering nonprofit organizations, or releasing a series of interviews and newsletter articles about extraordinary women in the workforce, we hope to show girls that we are here for them and can hopefully inspire them to become actively involved in leadership.”
Sun added that the group also hopes to tackle insecurities specific to young women.
“We want to provide a platform for young women to voice their concerns about various topics such as body image, school or relationships and hopefully address some of those concerns with our blog,” she said. “We also seek to inspire young women to take on more leadership roles by highlighting important women in our current workforce and throughout history, using our interview series and newsletter.”
To Her, From Us was born out of casual conversations between Sun and Chu.
“As a young woman, I still face self insecurities every day of my life,” Sun said. “I judge myself constantly for the way I look. I over prepare and stress in leadership organizations I’m a part of because I feel out of place. I used to be afraid to speak up on political issues because I felt like my voice didn’t matter.”
It turns out that similar thoughts had crossed Chu’s mind, too. Together, the girls decided to do what they could to help each other and their peers handle and conquer those feelings.
One way they do this is through their blog, which features posts about moving, changing schools, self love and family and friends.
“With these blog posts, we range from just giving advice as older students, to being a fellow young woman who has also struggled, to being someone who can only sympathize,” Sun said. “We want to provide any support and comfort we can, in any capacity. As we expand and gain members, we want to diversify the voices of our organizations, providing different perspectives. The blog has been an amazing way for me to learn about what bothers young women in the modern day and forces me to think critically regarding what we can do to combat these hurdles.”
The girls also offer advice, answer reader questions on their social media platforms and respond to individual letters—that’s where the name To Her, From Us comes from.
“Our biggest goal is to let young women understand that they are not alone and that they too can be the next generation of leaders, if only they believe in themselves,” Sun said. “We believe fostering this community can do a lot.”
Other members, like Karen Yang (director of outreach), Amy Xu (director of fundraising), Chloe Wolohan (director of journalism) and Caitlyn Ng (director of design) focus on different ventures.
Yang and Xu run the group’s social media accounts, while Sun and Chu design posts that appear on Instagram. Chu and Ng designed stickers and developed a merch plan. Wolohan, Chu and Sun handle the blog posts. Yang has interviewed teachers, women’s organization leaders and a member of the National Eating Disorders Association for the website.
Xu handles fundraising, which has become a key part of the group’s mission. To Her, From Us is currently collecting donations for three organizations: GirlsInc, WriteGirl and the National Girls Collaborative.
“We believed that an essential part of our female-empowering organization was to show our love and support for other organizations advocating similar messages,” Chu said. “We researched nonprofits that aimed to offer programs and opportunities to girls from all backgrounds.”
That wide-net approach helped Chu and Sun expand To Her, From Us out of New Jersey and into other parts of the county and beyond—the group now has chapters in Texas, New Mexico, Costa Rica and California. They reached out to girls from those areas via video chat to talk about what women’s issues look like outside of the East Coast, and their friends were receptive.
Sun’s friend, Vivien Jones, heads the New Mexico chapter and focuses a lot of her efforts on women and children experienceing homelessness. Her chapter raises money for the Barrett House, an organization that provides support for unhoused women, children, individuals and families.
“We wanted to spread our message to as many communities as we possibly could, as we hope young women all over the world can use our platform as a tool for self-motivation and encouragement,” Sun said. “We want to provide support to as many women as we can. The more places we are in, the more letters we will be able to receive and the more charities and organizations we can support.”
Chu and Sun both hope that expansion transitions into hosting events, an expanded letter program and collaborations with other organizations that share similar values.
“I feel like I have learned so much since the launch of our organization—being introduced to the various concerns of girls around us and discovering amazing female leaders and organizations, I hope that in the future, we will continue to treasure their diverse stories,” Chu said.