Reform from within

Sophia Kim, Asst. Web Editor

Flipping through the pages of a magazine, Marisa Umeh was concerned with the lack of representation of girls of color  in popular media. Inspired to make a change, she created a variety of T-shirts with designs of girls showing their individuality.

That was when she was 12.

Continuing her passion into high school, the Diamond Bar High School senior now runs an organization called “Chocolate Cupcakes” to encourage minority girls to strive for their best. Through hosting a variety of events and workshops around Los Angeles, Umeh encourages girls to go above and beyond by connecting them with successful women in the workforce.

“This organization is an empowerment organization geared towards empowering young minority girls to reach their academic and personal potential,” Umeh said.  

 Partnering with various community organizations such as Sisters Working Against Violence, Umeh hosts workshops that motivates the girls. With an all-girls environment at every hosted event, Umeh said that she hopes to encourage girls to focus on their dream and be outspoken about their ideas.

One of Umeh’s major events called #girlboss, held on Aug. 6 last year, inspired young girls to become entrepreneurs. By inviting a panel of speakers at each event, including the CEO of Hustlette, a clothing brand, and Hilda Brown, a doctor, Umeh provided an opportunity for the girls to interact with high-ranking females in the workforce.

“I think it’s important for girls to see scientists that look like them and lawyers that look like them. I feel like once they see those images they think, ‘oh I too can do that’,” she said.

Another organization Umeh partnered with is Runway for Peace, which focuses on giving girls the opportunity to develop public speaking skills. Girls at the event were given a chance to meet women from the WNBA teams and walk through a set-up a runway for a confidence-boost.

“Most of my workshops have been located in inner city neighborhoods because that is where there is typically the most need,” she said. “It becomes extremely crucial for girls to see images of women that are achieving and making strides in different fields.”

Recently, Chocolate Cupcakes received a grant from the State Department to create a coding workshop called Steamworks. With additional funding by Google and NASA, among others, Steamworks will give Umeh the opportunity to start a coding camp for young minority girls who are interested in the field of STEM.

Although Umeh is focusing on working with primarily elementary students at the moment, she stated that she hopes to see results once they receive higher education.

With a goal of continuously expanding her organization, Umeh also said that she hopes to build a strong support system for minority girls. After high school, Umeh aims to reach her dream of establishing “Chocolate Cupcakes” into a well-known and established organization, large enough to branch out into local high schools.

“This is something I’ll deal with for the rest of my life, I hope,” she said. “Ultimately, I would like to hold a big conference with a thousand people.”