Once upon a time a high school student in Northern Kentucky had a dream that girls would strive for more than a fairy-tale future for of themselves. She fantasized they would realize they have more opportunities, more strong role models, more freedom to be anything they want to be.
It is a vision echoed across society but UofL sophomore Nico Thom is turning that vision into reality.
Along with attending school full time, majoring in public health and participating in student government and other organizations, Thom is the founder of She Became, a nonprofit focused on mentoring young girls.
“I had great parents that always told me that I could be whatever I want to be, but I knew that not everyone had that,” Thom said. “I wanted to tackle this issue that affects all young women, not just the underprivileged or underserved. I think that it’s prevalent everywhere.”
At age 16, Thom established the first She Became site in her Fort Thomas hometown.
What started as a passion project quickly spread like wildfire through the Fort Thomas school system as a successful after-school program. When she graduated from high school, Thom brought She Became with her to Louisville and UofL. The program has since grown to include more than 80 volunteers from the university and the community. During the 2018-19 school year, She Became became an official after-school program in two Jefferson County schools: Coleridge-Taylor Montessori and Fern Creek Elementary.
She Became works with third- through fifth-graders by engaging them directly with female professionals across a wide variety of careers. From doctors, lawyers and software engineers to chefs, cosmetologists and zookeepers, the girls are brought face-to-face with all of their potential in the form of women who achieve.
Christie Kremer, a UofL freshman with a double major in Spanish and studio arts, has been with Thom since She Became’s beginning in Fort Thomas. She saw the potential in Thom’s idea and decided to throw her support and skills behind it. Kremer is currently the director of marketing, responsible for designing the She Became logo and keeping the website up to date, as well as serving as a mentor at Fern Creek Elementary.
“I was a big fan of the idea. I thought it was a good way to get involved with different schools and it just seemed like something really important,” Kremer said.
“I like Christie because she’s really nice and pretty,” said Kremer’s mentee, Teionna, 10. “But my favorite part is all of the strong, beautiful women that come in and teach us about different things.”
At the final event for the school year, UofL law student Meryem Khaloon spoke to the girls about life as an attorney. She outlined to them the steps to becoming a lawyer and the responsibilities of the job. During a mock trial, the girls were divided into groups to defend their clients. The discussion was lively and engaged as the young women delved into the attorney role-playing.
Arienna, 11, loved interacting with UofL students but she specifically enjoyed Khaloon’s lesson in law. “I really liked the law week. We got to be creative and make up a defense for some crazy story, and we won,” she said.
Thom has accomplished much in writing her own kind of fairy tale for herself — starting a nonprofit, becoming Student Government Association chief of staff and working as RaiseRED programming director — but her college dreams are nowhere near the final chapter.
Following a successful first year in Louisville, Thom hopes to expand She Became’s reach to more Kentucky schools and three additional states next school year.
And in the process of achieving her goals, she became — and encouraged young women to become — exactly what society needs: more.
For more information, visit SheBecame.org.