“Girls Inc. was a place for me to stop worrying about being an adult,” Varvarra said. “I felt like I could be a child there.” Growing up with a single mother who worked two full-time jobs, Varavara had many responsibilities at a young age. Attending Girls Inc. gave her a break from those responsibilities. “Girls Inc. was a great experience for me,” she said. “It was a place where I could just have fun.”
Varvarra began her Girls Inc. journey when a friend’s sister signed her up in middle school. She attended the Odyssey and summer STEM Eureka! programs in middle school. In high school, she participated in Career Path and Sister 2 Sister, a healthy sexuality program where she became a teen health ambassador and delivered comprehensive sex education to her peers. Her favorite event, H.A.L.T. (Harmony Among Lynn Teens), is one she still remembers because it brought the teens together from all the city’s schools for helpful resources and fun activities.
While Girls Inc. provided her an outlet to have fun, she also learned about herself, her community, and essential life skills. “I love to learn,” she said. “I feel like I learned a lot of educational things at Girls Inc. like safe sex, healthy relationships, how to be assertive and advocate for yourself, community involvement. Girls Inc. gave me space to be creative.”
Girls Inc. also helped Varvarra with her confidence, something she struggled with growing up. “The workshops where we talked about body image and confidence helped me learn to love myself, know myself, and advocate for myself. I still carry those lessons I learned at the workshops.”
After graduating from Lynn Classical, Varvarra went to UMass Dartmouth to study psychology. “Listen, I would not have gone to college if it weren’t for Girls Inc.,” she said. “I was the first one [in the family] to go to college and graduate. I didn’t know the steps I needed to take to get into college. The mentoring program guided though me everything. From documents I needed to SAT prep to waivers, Girls Inc. helped guide me during my college process, and I was accepted to every college I applied to.”
Today, Varvarra works at Swampscott High School in the special education department as an applied behavior analyst (A.B.A.) tutor. She loves to dance, do hair, hang out with friends, her family, and her dog in her free time. While 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, Varvarra made the most of it. She used her time to reflect on what was ahead for her future. Her passion for science and helping people pushed her to pursue her dreams of becoming a nurse. In January, she will start nursing school through an accelerated program.
Varvarra is grateful for her time at Girls Inc. and the unique experience of having an all-girl environment in which to thrive and an ever-supportive staff.
Her advice to current Girls Inc. girls and alums is her favorite mantra. Varvarra said, “My life motto is ‘To love is to know.’ ” This is something I live by. My confidence is something I struggled with a lot, and I’ve grown so much by taking the time to get to know myself. Put in the time to get to know yourself and stop worrying about what others say. Learn to love and take care of yourself. You know who you are and what you stand for, and no one can take that away from you.”