Student starts her own non-profit


Taking steps to success, what does that mean to you? 

To junior Lauryn Mills, it means empowering young women to do anything they want and reach goals they thought were unattainable.  Mills comes from a line of female entrepreneurs and businesswomen so it wasn’t a question of if Lauryn would start her own nonprofit or business. It was when. 

Girls Steps to Success provides young women all over the country with the resources they need to achieve their academic and personal success throughout their young life.

Their mission is to empower girls and help them reach their education and career goals, whether that means helping them get into a university or finding a job straight out of high school. Mills’ organization directly supports girls by providing mental health resources and advice on career paths, but focuses mainly on scholarships and access to education funds. 

Having people around to help her succeed has always been important, so Mills wanted to give other girls the same support. The website also has ideas for coping with stress, ways to improve self care habits, help with time management and even blog posts from other girls about identity and growth. Overall, Girls Steps to Success is meant to be a helpful resource and safe space for teen girls growing up in today’s world.

The process of starting the Girls Steps to Success started when Mills was freshman.The biggest, and quite possibly most important, step was filling out all the documentation the IRS required for non-profit organizations. Mills had help from her grandmother filling out the documents, so the process wasn’t as intimidating as she expected. Her family was a huge help in starting the organization. 

“Girls Steps to Success wouldn’t have been a thing – just a dream that never got its chance to become reality,” she said. “In a way, this non-profit is an ode to my family.” 

Mills put her blood, sweat and tears into making everything perfect down to the smallest details.  She spent weeks trying to find the perfect website template, doing tons of research and looking at examples from other sources. 

“Trust and believe it was very difficult, there were a lot of tears” she said.

It wasn’t until her college counselor urged her to speed up the process, saying to get started and that time was running out.After that bit of encouragement, she was able to find a template she loved and put the wheels in motion for her website plans. Mills spent that whole night figuring out how she wanted her website to look and perfecting it. When she was done, she fell in love with it. 

“That’s the thing about anything in life. When you know, you know,” she said,  “and I knew that that was my website.”

Mills didn’t announce to everyone what she was doing. It came as a surprise to most, except for some of the people closest to her.  The last thing she wanted was to be the center of attention and creating the organization was already out of her comfort zone anways. 

Junior Max Lanham was one of the few people who knew about Mills’ plans. 

“I could tell that setting up, ‘Girls Steps to Success’, was very important to Lauryn. She first told me about the project about a year and a half ago, but at the time she was very busy and couldn’t get behind it 100%” Lanham said.

 The pandemic freed up lots of time for Lauryn, so she was finally able to turn her dream into a reality. 

“She worked hard to get everything set up, and a couple of weeks later she called me and told me that everything was ready to go. I’m so proud of her for following through with this project. Lauryn has  always been the one to help others and lead by example, and this is a great example of that. I think we can all learn a lot from her, and that we need more people like her in today’s world.”Lanham said.

Once Lauryn made the website public, many were in awe and had a lot to say about it. 

“I like the setup of the website, and how it focuses on many issues that a lot of people don’t know how to cope with.” junior Shada Ibrahim said. 

On the website, you can find articles on self care, impacts of social media, education and more. 

“There are so many amazing parts of the website, but two of my favorites are the ‘Speak Out’’ and the ‘Black Female Business’ sections,” Ibrahim said.

“Something from the About Me page that Lauryn said that spoke to me was that success has nothing to do with the destination and everything to do with the journey,” she said. “I think that Lauryn did a stunning job with starting her non-profit.”

Along the way, Lauryn picked up some life lessons and learned a lot. When asked what advice she would give others who are thinking of starting their own non-profit or business, Mills emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will support you no matter what, sticking to your ideas and being okay with growth 

“Have a tribe. It would’ve been extremely hard for me to succeed without having people in my circle who believed in me,” she said.

Another important lesson she learned was about perseverance.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it. If you have an idea, stick to it, even if the people closest to you want to choose an easier path,” she said. “Believe in yourself and know that if you say you’ll do it, then you will. Cancel out all the other outside noise.”

Starting something new, whether it be a sport, hobby or in Lauryn’s case, her own non-profit, can be scary and even uncomfortable.  

“This completely took me out of my comfort zone because I don’t like being the center of attention. Promoting and putting it out there was exactly that. So get comfortable with being uncomfortable, it will allow you to grow.” Mills said.