“Growing up, I didn’t see a ton of successful women. And so I wanted to make sure that we reshaped what success looks like,” said Taniqua Huguley.

Huguley is working to make sure that the young women of her community know that whatever it is they dream, they can be.

She founded Black Girls Achieve in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, to enrich the lives of middle and high school girls outside of the classroom.

The program works with girls primarily in Hartford – but also in New York City and in Trinidad where Huguley did research as a Fulbright Scholar – in workshops throughout the year learning about everything from college and career planning to menstrual health, vision board drafting, cultural activities and more.

The 29-year-old New York City native came to Hartford in 2011 to study at Trinity College and says she knew she wanted to create an organization that filled some of the gaps she experienced in her own childhood, and address some of the challenges that are specific to young Black women.

“We provide our girls with unique opportunities that will allow them to experience the world and really use all the skills that they learned through our programs and through those experiences throughout their lives,” Huguley said.

“Growing up as a Black girl in New York City, in a neighborhood very similar to Hartford. There, you know, there was a gap in the resources provided in school, meaning I didn’t relate to my teachers, meaning we were taught different ways there could have been conflict in the school that wasn’t handled well. I wanted to provide an opportunity for the girls in my community now growing up to experience women who looked like them, women who are in positions that they want to be in, but may think that it’s not feasible because of the community that they come from or their race,” she continued.

Now, the organization touches some 300 girls each year. Among them, Hartford teens Serenity Geddies and Tytiana Easterling who say being part of Black Girls Achieve has helped with their confidence and expanded their view of what they can be – by seeing women who look like them do it.

“The safe space aspect is like you don’t have to worry about being looked at as different or you’re too rowdy or anything like that, because these are people who aren’t like like you,” Geddies said.

“It’s very inspiring to see that, when I get older, I can do the same things that these the women that I look up to are doing. And I can do more to help Hartford Connecticut,” Easterling said.

Later in July,  Black Girls Achieve is taking it’s mission international on a trip to Africa.

“We’re taking six girls to Kenya, to not only host workshops for girls in Kenya, but also to really learn the culture and learn about where we come from to visit the motherland.  I just want to say you can do it, you will do it. And there are Black women out there who will support you in all of your efforts in work,” Huguley said.

Learn more about Black Girls Achieve programs here.