“Look at what I can be.”
You might wonder if that’s Stacy Stahl’s personal mantra or if it’s the underlying theme to the programs she directs at EmBe.
The real answer is that it is both.
As the Youth Development Director, Stacy has repeatedly shown what she, and her programs can be, by taking on new challenges and roles in her 11 years at EmBe.
Before coming to EmBe, Stacy was already paving the way for herself and her community. Taking a job in Japan as an English as a Second Language teacher, Stacy pushed outside of her comfort zone and tackled first jobs and a new country at the same time.
But home was calling her back, and after a year, Stacy found herself back in her hometown taking on the newly created Youth Director at Garretson’s Zion Lutheran Church. Six years later, Stacy read about the job opening for Girls on the Run (GOTR) Director.
“I just fell in love with the mission,” said Stahl. “I fell in love with what it was doing for girls. I was a shy kid. I was the girl that wasn’t super outgoing when I was that age. That’s what attracted me to the program. It really reached girls who hadn’t come into their own yet.”
And just like the program, Stacy was coming into her own professionally. She started from scratch at her church position and faced a similar situation with GOTR. Before her first day at EmBe, she was already being called to advocate for GOTR at a Sioux Empire United Way meeting. The program was young and had dropped from seven spring sites to three fall sites. Stacy stepped up and made the appeal.
GOTR is now on track to be in 100 sites in 2017.
“I learned to start at the ground level,” said Stahl. “I had to create my own way and my own best practices. And learn from my own mistakes.”
Stacy walked alongside the kids in the program and the volunteers who make GOTR what it is. She was comfortable managing volunteers. But again, others around her said “look what she can be,” and with a promotion she was now in charge of staff and more programs.
“Supervising wasn’t a skill set that I had, and I had to learn. I’ve always felt like I’ve grown organically, and the programs have grown organically too.”
Now Stacy oversees two full time coordinators and 12 programs or events – Girls on the Run, Heart & Sole, Volleyball, Taekwondo, Spinsters, EmBe 5K, Babysitting Boot Camp, Camp CEO, Let Me Run, First Lego League, Girls Maker Day and Camp ChangeMaker.
With all this growth, Stacy has pushed for and been pushed into what EmBe can be.
Stacy and EmBe CEO Laurie Knutson had talked for years about developing a leadership program for middle school girls. They dreamt of a camp experience that showed girls real women in non-traditional roles. Through connections made through EmBe’s Women’s Leadership Program, and the vision of Stacy and Laurie, Camp CEO was born.
Stacy pushed and now in its fourth summer, Camp CEO continues to show middle school girls what they can be.
The expansion of programming isn’t always a natural fit, and when the opportunity to bring FIRST LEGO League (FLL) came along, Stacy was apprehensive. Math and science weren’t her favorite subjects in school.
And how do you lead a program that is outside your comfort zone? Stacy dug in and found a way to connect.
Stahl said, “I fell in love with the core values. I fell in love with what this program does for kids outside the robotics piece. These kids are just so into it, and you can see the passion.”
At an early transition meeting, Stahl remembers a mom of an avid FLL participant stand up, and through tears tell Stacy what this program meant to her kid. This was his thing. He’d never done well in sports or anything, and FLL was where he finally saw what he could be.
Most recently, Stacy has been a part of adding Girls’ Maker Day and Camp ChangeMaker to EmBe’s Youth Development department.
“The mission of Girls’ Maker Day is to get the spark going. Get the ball rolling in that mind, in that heart and that spirit to create and do what’s never been done,” said Stahl.
Camp ChangeMaker is a new camp this year that came about from a past Camp CEO camper wanting to dive deeper into the world of nonprofits. It’s a tangible display of what these empowering programs can spark for the young people who get involved.
And now all kids can be involved in EmBe programming. With FLL and Let Me Run (the boy version of GOTR), boys can find that same confidence and mentoring that they need.
“There are lots of little boys that need confidence too. We’re creating a boy that has empathy for others. We’re creating a boy that’s going to be interacting with women in a more positive way, who can control his anger, who can make good decisions and be a good role model, who is comfortable with his emotions”
When qualities like that are instilled in our young men, we are building a better world for women and girls too.
Of all the things Stacy’s created in the last 11 years, her greatest is her son Benjamin – a strong-willed, bright-eyed four year old with energy to spare. And like lots of working mothers, the work Stacy does is not only for herself, but for her family.
“I see the things that we’re doing that I really want to see Benjamin be involved in. I want these things for my child, and I want them for all kids.”
That’s how Stacy has found herself as a grant writer as well. She wants to make sure all kids – not just kids who come from families who can afford it – get to participate.
“Our programs shouldn’t only be available to those that can pay. Every kid should have these opportunities. Otherwise, these cycles are never going to break. Poverty. Addiction. All of these things kids are faced with. They never see that other side.”
And that’s the common thread all these programs and Stacy share – they build confidence and show kids – including her own – that if they can do this, they can do anything.