Nina Ellis-Hervey, who holds a doctorate in school and clinical psychology, spoke to Lufkin High School girls Monday night during the first Empower Hour.
Empower is an after-school leadership club. Together, the students and their sponsors discuss topics that are important to them and invite influencers in those topics to speak.
Ellis-Hervey is the first woman the group has invited to speak.
She is a tenured and associate professor and clinic director at Stephen F. Austin State University, licensed to work in Texas and Louisiana. She is also well-known for her YouTube channel and podcast where she discusses exercise, skin care, hair care and mental well being with an audience of nearly 1 million subscribers.
She shared her story with students and told them how she implemented research-based solutions into her everyday life to improve its quality. Her hope is that students could put some of what they learned from her into practice in their own lives.
“Through my storytelling and through research they kind of collide to create supernatural — which is an acronym for ways that you can live while you’re having difficult and good times,” Ellis-Hervey said.
She has spoken at Lufkin Middle School and some of the elementary schools, but never at Lufkin’s High School, she said.
“It’s very important for you to not only exist in your skin, but maximize on the skills that you have,” she said. “By maximizing on the skills that you have, I mean building on the skills that people might think are nothing. Starting off as — I hate the term — ‘underdog’ does not make you have to be counted out. It might mean that you have to use that uniqueness in order to build on it and become even more what you’re supposed to be.”
Empower advisers Kivana Ford, Angela Roberts and Calvasha Summers helped organize the club in the fall of 2019 to uplift young women at Lufkin High through think-tank style conversations.
“The girls needed a place to come, sit back and relax, but learn from each other,” Ford said. “We wanted to make sure that we were able to create a culture that was inviting, but also impacting.”
She said the girls decided that they wanted to meet and engage with women who have succeeded. The girls came to them and began planning how the event would work and what kind of women they were looking for specifically.
“I wanted to be a part of it because it seemed like something that would have a good, positive effect on my day-to-day life,” Desirae Giles, a sophomore and president of Empower, said.
She enjoys the fact that the club is a good group of women who want to connect and help each other feel more empowered. She said she was excited about Ellis-Hervey because she’s a woman who knows what she’s doing, she has a doctorate and she has a story that could inspire them.
While she wouldn’t give specifics, Desiree said she thinks the next speaker will be a cheerleader of some sort.
“This is something that is very important and that will impact young females, like myself,” she said.
Caroline McDaniel, a junior and vice president of Empower, said she joined the group because there weren’t many empowering groups, especially not for young women.
She said the discussions are deeper than what many expect, she’s learned about her own independence and self worth through the group.
When it came down to deciding who to bring, they had some specific qualifications, she said.
“We had a meeting and we talked about the type of people we want to bring to school and what we want to hear from them,” she said. “We found her. She kind of fit everything.”
The girls approached the school about inviting Ellis-Hervey to speak, Ty Cauthen, principal for student activities, said. They were well prepared and had a legitimate argument as to what she could bring to fill in the gaps in the students’ growth and why it was important that the school make it happen, he said.
“When they saw that this person was someone that they could connect to, someone they could see themselves in — they could see that she’s just like them and was able to accomplish these goals, it was a really quick, easy ‘Let’s do it’,” he said. “With this, we’re promoting a lifestyle of believing in yourself, in positivity, in growth.”
The advisers wanted to offer the girls a chance to see something that they may never get a chance to again and to connect with other young women in the same boat. The club is one of the fastest growing clubs at the school, Cauthen said.
“The girls said that they wanted more time than what they got during our regular bell schedule during the day,” Ford said. “So they spoke it and we’re making it happen.”
The club is open to any girl in any grade at the school. They currently have more than 60 members.