Not Your Typical Teenager

By Graceley Todd

A typical teenager’s Saturday morning consists of sleeping in and watching television, however, Maria Baig woke up early every other Saturday for half the year excited to go to her GirlsFLI meeting. Now as a teenager myself I can personally say there’s little I’d rather do on a Saturday morning then sleep so when Maria told me this I knew she was truly passionate about GirlsFLI. Maria entered the program a little hesitant that she would not connect well with the other girls but to her delight she made friends almost “instantaneously”, and more importantly she found a group of girls who shared her interest in spreading awareness about racial discrimination.

In elementary school Maria was bullied. Although she didn't realize it at the time she later reflected “oh race was probably the problem”. She explained that most of the students in her elementary school were white and she was the only minority. When she joined GirlsFLI Maria discovered that she was not alone with her encounter with racism on Long Island. As fellow GirlsFLI members shared their struggles with discrimination she said “I learned stories about people that really stuck with me”. The fact that so many of the GirlsFLI girls were exposed to racial prejudice is not shocking considering Long Island is statistically one of the most segregated regions in the country. Maria, motivated by this experience, chose to “focus on race” and with the help of her fellow GirlsFLI members, created the service project Depicting Diversity.  Depicting Diversity concentrates on “the lack of diversity in film and television” and focuses on ending racial, gender, and sexual orientation based stereotypes. Their presentation was a huge success as their audience filled the venue and varied in age, race, and gender. Not only was it a full house but attendees lingered to share their own stories. In fact, after the presentation a woman from the audience stood up and thanked the GirlsFLI girls for their efforts to change how certain races are portrayed in the media and shared how hard it has been for her to overcome the stereotypes that are linked to Latina immigrant women. Seeing firsthand how her project affected people, Maria stated “I can do so much at my age, much more than I thought I could and thanks to GirlsFLI, I now have jump start that I needed to do so much more”.  

This story was written by Graceley Todd, a WFLI intern this summer whose main task was to tell the stories of the GirlsFLI members. Graceley is a student at Portledge High School in Locust Valley. She is a writer for her school paper and literary magazine.