Tiffany Lewis knows the struggles that many children face, having faced those same struggles in her youth. Lewis, who was born in Memphis and moved to the Buffalo area at the age of four, didn’t have many opportunities to grow and to become strong, or to have her own voice. Now, as the chief financial officer for Confident Girl Mentoring, Lewis can give young women the strength and the voice that she had to find for herself.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of this job is helping to grow young women’s confidence,” Lewis said. “Usually when people start mentoring with us, their confidence levels are about ten percent or so. When they’re done with our programs, their confidence levels can be as high as 85 percent. It’s phenomenal to see how much of an impact our program can have on young women.”
Even though her mentoring program has been successful, Lewis actually got her start in something completely unrelated. After graduating from college, Lewis pursued a license in Clinical Oncology Esthetics, which deals with providing skincare for cancer patients, and she became the first woman of color from Western New York to earn that license.
“I was drawn to that kind of work because I wanted to help to find the beauty within people,” Lewis said. “That’s why I got involved with Clinical Oncology Esthetics, and it’s why I’m involved with mentoring now.”
After a few years in the esthetics field, Lewis decided to pivot into mentoring, starting up the 501(c)(3) in 2016. Along with mentoring, Lewis has also been involved with local government, being named the chairperson of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women last January.
Helping young girls find strength and become better women is just one way Confident Girl Mentoring seeks to improve the status of women. Some of their other programs include virtual seminars dealing with topics like self-esteem, trauma, and dating violence, among other things. This summer, Confident Girl Mentoring also hosted a virtual journalism workshop featuring Buffalo news anchors Karys Belger and Fadia Patterson. Confident Girl also recently started the “Jump 4 Confidence” jump rope program.
While Confident Girl Mentoring is primarily focused in Buffalo, the company has recently been expanding to other parts of the country like North Carolina, Niagara Falls, and the Memphis metro area. According to Lewis, the growth was primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the limits of what the company could do locally, specifically in terms of in-person programming.
“This has been a great opportunity for us to expand our services,” Lewis said. “While our main focus will still be in the Buffalo area, the emergence of online conferencing in the era of COVID means that we are able to do the same things we’ve been doing in Buffalo in other places around the country.”
Lewis pointed out that one of the main differences between Confident Girl and other similar mentoring groups is that Confident Girl offers more group mentoring programs, as opposed to one-on-one style mentoring.
“Our group programs are all about growing confidence,” Lewis said. “Let’s say you’re a young woman who has insecurities about your weight or something similar to that. In the group setting, you can look and see that you’re not the only one suffering from that problem and that many other people are struggling with the same issues as you. That kind of confidence boost is something you don’t find in one-on-one mentoring.”
Confident Girl has mentored about 2,500 children who live either on or below the poverty line, making up about 85 percent of the total number of girls the organization sees. Lewis brought up how bringing them into the mentoring program can provide a voice for the at-risk youth, telling them that they don’t have to stay in their current living situation and that they can aspire to be something better. The program has a high turnover rate, something Lewis interprets as the program achieving its goals, improving women’s lives, and getting them to a better place.
“It’s one of the great things about Confid