In honor of Women’s History Month last month, we decided to feature clients that work to empower and uplift women and highlight the inspiring work they do. Today, we are pleased to present Carmin Caterina, the founder of Lessons For My Daughters, who has committed herself to helping girls connect to their inner wisdom, power and magic.
While working as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in New York City, Carmin Caterina had the unique opportunity to work in many different schools across the city, one which not many SLPs are given. She dreamt about what she would change if given the chance to run her own school and was inspired to work towards becoming a principal. Carmin became energized by child-centred learning and the more humanistic models of education. She realized that “the way we teach kids in school...doesn’t make sense.”
Carmin decided that “she couldn’t fix the system while also being a part of it” and realized that while she had dreamed about helping as many children as possible, she should start by helping her daughters first. Even after doing this, she still felt like there was a larger calling for her to make a bigger impact. After speaking to a life coach, she decided to start writing about the lessons she would want to leave for her daughters. This evolved into a curriculum of 8 messages she wanted to pass on.
After speaking to a group of girls at the school she was working at, Camin felt “a fire lit inside” of her and knew that helping young women and girls was what she was supposed to do. She discovered a passion for reaching girls who may not meet the typical statistics or things teachers are told to look out for in their students, those who may slip through the cracks and never have access to programs like hers. From this passion, Lessons For My Daughters was born.
What caused you to want to pursue a career that contributes to social change, particularly with regard to working with women?
“I feel like there are three pieces to the puzzle. First, I saw myself in the kids I was working with as an SLP and realized that a lot of times, kids just need someone to talk to. I think they need more space to talk about the things that are affecting them. They need to have the tools to deal with those things. Second, my childhood experiences were a real driving force behind creating this curriculum. And third, I wanted to leave something behind that would make my own daughters’ lives easier. They say that you have to let your kids make their own mistakes, but I believe that at the same time, you can impart wisdom on them, something that you hope will help them navigate the world a little bit easier. When it came to working with women and girls, I think that as a woman, it was just about sharing the experiences that we have in common. I played around with the idea of a program for boys, but I feel like it is important for kids to have someone to look up to that they identify with, so the obvious direction was a program for girls.”
What do you think is the greatest challenge women face in the world today? How does Lessons for my Daughters help overcome them?
“Universally, I think we all face the same challenges throughout generations. I teach girls from all over the place and we all have the same feelings of insecurity and putting too much emphasis on the outer world as opposed to their inner world. Society is very focused on outward things, outward appearances, especially in girls. And now, they have this compounding effect because of social media that make outside pressures even greater. Girls have no sense of privacy and no sense of being shut off from the world. They always have to be connected, on the phone, not wanting to miss out on something and wanting to fit in with their peers. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, especially in New York City, there’s a mental health crisis happening for these kids. Lessons For My Daughters helps this because it’s really about connecting back to yourself. When we’re kids, we feel kind of powerless because there are certain things that we can’t change or can’t control. I teach them how to access their inner power, how to realize that a lot of the decisions they are making every day are in their control and greatly affect everything else. I want them to value and celebrate themselves and know that if you love yourself, everything else is going to fall into place. You’re going to be more motivated to be successful, do better in school, surround yourself with good people and be involved in healthy relationships because all of that really stems from the relationship you have with yourself. I help them to deal with life’s disappointments, find the silver lining and build resiliency. It’s about learning how to deal with challenges and struggles, to go with the flow of your life but to not let them take us down for good.”
What has your work been like with Good Counsel Services?
“During this journey, I was invited to the Centre for Social Innovation and that’s where I met Elizabeth. She’s always been such a huge supporter, whether it was attending a fundraiser or giving legal advice. When I needed something bigger or something that she didn’t have expertise in, she’d connect me with the person. Elizabeth and Good Counsel also helped me make sure that my website was a safe space for kids; it’s just been an amazing resource and support.”
What do you think your greatest impacts have been?
“I hope that my biggest impact is that every girl I have the honour of coming across remembers that she is an important piece of the puzzle, that she has a purpose and her life is a gift. If I can get girls to even feel a little bit of magic inside of them, it really has a huge trickle-down effect. That’ll influence them in a positive way, and that will influence the next person in a positive way, and it will keep growing and growing.”
What do you envision for the future of Lessons For My Daughters?
“I’m hoping I can get a book published called Lessons For My Daughters where I write out the curriculum and get it to as many girls and parents as possible. I want to train the trainer, maybe creating some sort of mentoring or big-sister program where they can start a peer group. I always tell girls that the magic really comes from them, I’m just the facilitating container, but you really learn the most from each other and those who share experiences similar to yours. I want to give girls a space to be themselves, to be seen, heard and validated. True success to me is being happy with who you are and being comfortable in your own body and I want other girls to be brave enough to be who they are and feel value in that.”
Any advice for those wanting to do socially-driven work?
“Follow your heart. If there’s a passion inside of you, just listen to it and do it to your full potential. I don’t think that these ideas are just by chance. I think we’re meant to really follow what it is that we’re passionate about. Just go for it.”