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A Girl Like Me

Judith Martínez, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of World Language and Cultures
Missouri State University
Missouri

Strength, resilience, and hope are only a few of the descriptors that define Amby Lewis when you are around her. However, her inspiring story has not come easy in any way. Amby has earned every one of her stripes and is now changing one life at a time through the organization she founded: A Girl Like Me Network. Amby is also the owner of Queen City Teas and Steams LLC, which she also founded. She transpires leadership and entrepreneurship, but also kindness and love towards her community.  Her dreams of making a difference and using her story to transform the lives of others have been her way of living. 

Amby was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri by her mother, uncles, and brothers. She chose to leave her house while she was still a teen at the age of seventeen. Amby is very aware of how negative influences impacted her lifestyle to prevent her from succeeding in many areas.  Family issues, unconstructive encouragement, and lack of mentorship pushed Amby to destructive behaviors, and it seemed that her journey was a failure from any perspective. No one would have guessed her life would turn around a full circle within the next couple of years. 

Amby became a mother very young, and without much support, she realized the need to become the head of the household and her natural leadership skills became very handy. She turned into an event planner and her success in this helped her confirm she had a talent to lead and organize.  One of the events she hosted was the “Women’s Empowerment Brunch” and the Springfield black community hadn’t seen anything like it.  People were amazed at the exceptional organization, and it was evident that Amby had a calling to serve the community. COVID hit right after this big event and gave everything a turn around. Nevertheless, Amby states that she took this time to reflect and chose to use her past struggles in her teens to create a project that would prevent children and teens from failing. She designed, founded, and nurtured A Girl Like Me Network, a nonprofit that aims to intercept young girls with positive influences, encouragement, motivation and mentoring to set them up for success during their foundational years and throughout life in general. This was born out of Amby’s dream to provide what she did not have in her teens.  She was that girl before, but these girls have other women to support them as they grow and guide them throughout the process. 

Amby has developed a structured program that seeks to foster community among the group of girls she oversees, she does not only provide leadership opportunities, but goes beyond to offer support, mentoring, community service, and development in different areas. A Girl Like Me Network is a program that seeks to offer a holistic approach for individuals as they reach adulthood. In other words, Amby and her team are there for the girls. It is a genuine network of support that provides a sense of belonging and family-like to inspire young girls to be the best versions of themselves with the resources they need. They offer constant activities, especially during weekends. This has been decided intentionally to keep the girls from being “in the streets”.  Every Saturday at eleven the girls and their mentors meet up. They have time to share experiences and connect. Then, Amby and her team have a structured program pre-planned for the girls. As the year begins, they have been working on goals, resolutions, and vision boards. Other popular activities are leadership pieces of training, topics such as self-care, women’s health, finances, and especially field trips. Every summer they go camping for a week and enjoy a time in the river and bond around the beautiful landscapes of the Ozark and its nature. 

It is not an easy task to keep this program alive. The board is actively seeking grants, and external support as a non-profit. This is the behind-the-scenes that might not be visible, and perhaps the biggest challenge. Funding is never an easy task; however, the motivation of the leadership team has kept this successful program going. The smiles and growth the girls show are priceless. This is a genuine transformational process these kids go through, and a life-changing opportunity that is worth fighting for.  Regardless of the barriers, Amby wakes up every day ready to recruit volunteers, work with her board, talk to her sponsors, organize her weekly events with the girls, and keep everything smooth and running. Amby has been recognized as the 2022 40 under 40 Springfield Business Journal Honoree, and community advocate for families having issues in the school system. She is also an Alumni of Greater Missouri Leadership Alumni for the class of 2022.  She is often asked to speak at community events for inspirational and motivational speeches with her empowering story.  Amby now has two chapters of A Girl Like Me Network, one in Springfield and one in Fulton, Missouri.   And hopes to grow this network even more. 

Entrepreneurship is key for Amby’s success, as a mother of three she understands the need to continue to move forward in the business area. She learned the powers of herbal mixes and was fascinated by the tea part of it. She founded her own company of Queen City Teas and Steams LLC and runs that business along with her three children. Feeding the soul is one of Amby’s top goals in life. As a woman of faith, Amby believes in the power of life transformation if you intake what refreshes and nourishes the body and soul. Amby is a dreamer and a lifelong learner; she has also decided to return to school to finish her bachelor’s degree in human resource management. She believes in the power of education and wants to be an example for her co-workers, mentees, and children. 

Amby’s story is a story of bravery, she continues to show resilience and to grow stronger as life goes by. She truly is that Girl, the girl we need around when we need a friend, a sister, a girl like me.

Headshot
Dr. Judith Martinez
Associate Professor of Literature
Judith Martínez, PhD. is currently an Associate Professor of Literature.  She has served as the Provost Fellow for Faculty Development.  She has been recognized for her research, teaching, and service. Judith was the recipient of the University Research award, as well as the Board of Governors recognition for her leadership and community involvement.

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