April 14, 2010

NAM girl turned CEO!

Now this is a cool article from a newspaper in IL. Here's a link to the original article: http://www.nwherald.com/articles/2010/01/29/19396092/index.xml

Tween CEO's charity proves kids can handle big issues

At 12 years old, Marivi Howell-Arza has a closet full of business suits she’d like to give away. The McHenry girl has become president and CEO of her own charity, Good First Impressions. And she’s only in seventh grade.

With the help of friends and fellow classmates she recruited to serve on her board of directors, Marivi collects business attire to donate to those who can’t afford it. She’d like to help them make a “good impression” on job interviews and court appearances. “Since my parents have been out of jobs I figured it’d be good to do something for people who have been out of work,” Marivi said.

The charity has its own Web site – www.goodfirstimpressionscharity.com – as well as a blog and a Facebook page. Marivi has promoted it to friends and family and during assemblies at her school, Francis W. Parker in Chicago. She’s collected roughly 30 suits so far.

She intends to give her collection to Dress for Success, a Chicago-based organization that provides professional attire to disadvantaged women, or any local charities in need.
She’s always been a self-starter, said her father, John Wingspread Howell. “She is an amazing young lady.”
Through the years, he said, Marivi has run several small-scale businesses, such as pet grooming, even creating her own business cards.

As a former financial advisor, he recognized the need for such a charity. At the time, he encouraged co-workers to bring in suits they no longer wore, but “it never really got off the ground.” Marivi took the idea and went from there, creating the site and Facebook page.
“You put your mark on it,” he told his daughter.
“I think people short-sell kids quite often in terms of not encouraging them to do things they consider too grown up,” he said.

Getting children involved in charities and volunteer work of this nature not only makes them more socially aware, but also gives them a sense of self-worth, said Laura Pittman, an associate professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University.

It makes them feel part of a community and gives them leadership skills, she said. “Basically, they feel good about themselves,” she said. And the best way to get children interested is to model it, she said. “If their parents are doing those kind of things, they’ll want to do it,” she said.
It can be difficult for children younger than 15 to find volunteer opportunities, mainly because of insurance reasons, said Rebecca Stiemke, executive director of the United Way McHenry County Volunteer Center.

Still, parents are encouraged to volunteer with their children at festivals, libraries and special events, she said. Bethesda Thrift store in Crystal Lake, as well as some senior companion programs and retirement homes, let families volunteer together, she said.
“When a child volunteers with a parent, they get quality time together and positive values are instilled,” she said.

Marivi sought out volunteer opportunities after taking part in the National American Miss Pageant. Her parents initially didn’t want her to participate at all. They told her, “We’re not pageant people. We don’t need to be focusing on outer beauty,” she remembered.
“I begged and begged and begged my mom,” she said.

The more the family looked into it, they found that it is more of a “natural pageant,” focusing on inner beauty, John Howell said. Participants Marivi’s age do not wear makeup or take part in a swimsuit competition, and they’re judged on community involvement.

On her own, Marivi raised $680 to take part in last year’s pageant, even going door to door to ask for sponsors. Of 138 participants, she was second runner-up in last year’s talent contest, singing Broadway music. She plans to compete this year as well.
“I want be on Broadway,” said Marivi, who plans to go to Yale.
“My ultimate dream is to play Christine Daae from the Phantom of the Opera. If that doesn’t work out, I want to be an OB/GYN.”
You can donate, too

For more information, to donate or to review the criteria for receiving nearly new business attire and accessories, go to www.goodfirstimpressionscharity.com. To contact the charity, call 815 701-8052 or e-mail donations@GoodFirstImpressionsCharity.com. A Good First Impressions Charity page also can be found on Facebook.

The following men’s or women’s business attire, “in good condition and fashionable at the time of the donation,” will be accepted: Shoes; belts and suspenders; suits; dress slacks; dress shirts; sport jackets; dress skirts; dress blouses; ties, cufflinks, pocket silks and any other accessories; and wallets, purses, leather card cases and pocket calendars.

For information on the Volunteer Center of McHenry County, visit www.volunteermchenrycounty.org or call 815 344-4483.

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