Strong Girl: Rylee McKenna
Rylee McKenna and her mom run Orangeville’s Strong Girls Club, which focuses on confidence building, mindfulness and women’s rights.
“Hang out with people who make your soul happy.” This stellar mantra comes from Rylee McKenna, who at 13 has already figured out that self-empowerment is a mighty weapon against subtle bullying, political angst and unrealistic beauty ideals portrayed in social media.
Rylee and her mom, Nicole Hannan, run Orangeville’s Strong Girls Club, with two programs focusing on confidence building, mindfulness and women’s rights – one for girls in Grades 3 to 5 and one for girls in Grades 6 to 8. The pair also maintain the Strong Girls Club Instagram feed, which is where the project began. When Rylee asked to join the social media platform, Nicole said yes, but only if she followed inspirational women (in other words, no pouty “influencers”). Middle school mean-girl issues were the other impetus to offer meetups for likeminded girls to visit together.
Rylee and her mom plan the Instagram content calendar, but Nicole does the posting so that Rylee isn’t online all the time. In spite of the serious subject matter, Rylee remains cheerfully upbeat, helping her peers through bullying and self-esteem issues with charm, humour, yoga and an abiding love of Orangeville’s independent restaurants where the groups often convene.
One of Rylee’s tricks for managing anxiety is to create an accomplishment wall of all her wins, and asking herself, “Why am I feeling down when all these things that matter to me are right here?” They are thoughtful words those of us decades older would do well to ponder too.