10 Ways to Inspire Your Kids -- Courtesy of 'Amy Poehler's Smart Girls' Co-Founder, Meredith Walker

10 Ways to Inspire Your Kids -- Courtesy of 'Amy Poehler's Smart Girls' Co-Founder, Meredith Walker

Amy Poehler Smart Girls logo

"Change the world by being yourself." Sounds like a pretty lofty goal, but that's the idea behind Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, a kickass organization trying to empower young people by encouraging individuality and creativity and some good old-fashioned fun. Of course, there is some work involved in becoming a genuine Smart Girl. Meredith Walker (co-founder, executive director, and Amy's BFF) tells CafeMom that the group's mantra is actually an assignment. "You have to ask yourself questions," says Walker. "You have to be curious about yourself and the world that you live in and the other people in it to really find out who that self is." And part of that starts with finding 'smart' influences.

That's kind of the whole reason Walker and Poehler began Smart Girls -- to tell middle school and high school young women (and us, too!) that growing up doesn't mean having to fit into any sort of cookie-cutter mold. "We say that finding yourself interesting is the real accomplishment -- more than building your college application or your resume or checking off these kind of 'supposed tos' that our society puts on us," says Walker of this "funky" adolescent time in life that should really be about finding one's authentic self.

"We say, 'Get your hair wet.' That came from noticing adults at swimming pools ... not getting all the way in the water," she explains of this metaphor she uses to describe women's reluctance to break through some pretty outdated cultural ideals. "That's how you’ll find your true essence, your smart girl. ... You do it by doing things that are playful, fun, and that you're naturally drawn to."

Here, Walker gives CafeMom some cultural inspiration (authors, films, TV shows, and even celebs) she's drawn to -- inspo that might just empower your kids (and you!) to forget the Mean Girls phase and RSVP to the Smart Girls party.


Image via AmyPoehlersSmartGirls/Instagram

  • Give Them the Gift of John Green


    With Smart Girls-appropriate messages like these, how could you not find empowerment in Fault in Our Stars author John Green? "He does so much for young women and young people and people of all ages," Meredith Walker tells Cafemom. "His intellect, his inclusivity ... I read his books. I watch his videos. I think that he’s someone to recommend and make sure people know about." Because, seriously, no one should ever, ever forget to be awesome.

  • Make 'The Color Purple' a Must-See Movie


    Based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, this 1985 film delves into issues of racism, sexism, abuse, and oppression -- specifically in regards to African American women -- in the early twentieth century. "I think it’s very important to watch movies like The Color Purple because we can't forget," Walker tells CafeMom of the history of race relations and oppression in this country that she says is especially important to remember and discuss at this moment in time. Let's also not forget that the film -- starring Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery, and introducing Whoopi Goldberg -- places extraordinary emphasis on realizing one's self-worth and finding one's self-esteem.

  • Let Them Fall in Love With Judy Blume


    It's literally not possible to name our all-time favorite Judy Blume book -- because they are just too many favorites to choose from. "You can't go wrong with Judy Blume," Walker tells CafeMom of this author who we still learn from today (she writes novels geared toward adults, too!).

    Blume has consistently given us universal advice through her characters, like this gem from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret: "My mother said it was natural for me to feel uneasy on the first day of school. She said when she was a girl she felt the same way." Sigh. Haven't we all.

    More from CafeMom: Judy Blume Was Every Girl's BFF When We Felt Like We Didn't Have One

  • Have Them Listen to Michelle Obama


    The ultimate #WCW. FLOTUS and team Smart Girls!! 🙌💖💡⚡️(photo taken at the @USWomen2016 Summit in June 2016)

    A photo posted by Amy Poehler's Smart Girls (@amypoehlersmartgirls) on

    "I think the top of the heap is Michelle Obama," Walker tells CafeMom of our FLOTUS. "She just is the total embodiment of [what Smart Girls is all about]." Not only did Smart Girls join FLOTUS at the United State of Women summit in June, but Walker says the group is working with Michelle's Let Girls Learn initiative to help teenage girls learn stories about their peers around the world.

    Plus, Walker says that Smart Girls also spent some time at the White House working on videos and conversations to help shine a light on dissapointing STEM stats that indicate that fields, such as computer sceience, are still very much dominated by white men. You can be sure that our feminist FLOTUS wants to change that.

  • Sit Down to Watch 'Gandhi' Together


    "The movie Gandhi is a really beautiful movie, and I think it's age-appropriate for pretty much everybody," Walker tells CafeMom of the 1982 biographical film of Mahatma Gandi, the Indian civil rights leader who preached nonviolent civil disobedience to help win independence from British rule. "It kind of humanizes peace. You can see what peace looks like."

  • Urge Them to Solve a Mystery With Nancy Drew


    Forget the Hardy Boys. Smart Girls need a female sleuth, and that's exactly what they get in the OG series about the iconic Nancy Drew, a smartypants young woman who solves mysteries -- which Walker tells us both she and Poehler really enjoy.

    More from CafeMom: 12 BFF-Worthy Book Characters We'd Totally Chill With IRL

  • Encourage Them to Watch 'Cosmos'


    Walker recommends Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey with Neil Degrasse Tyson -- a remake produced by Ann Druyan, the widow of Carl Sagan (the host of the OG docu-series). "I just think any time at all that we can push intelligence … and critical thinking ... [it's] the most important thing we can do for young minds and any mind," Walker tells CafeMom of learning about this "gigantic, mind-blowing universe." Check out the Smart Girls's Google hangout with Druyan if you're not convinced.

  • Introduce Them to 'Smart' Friends


    Amber Tamblyn. Rashida Jones. Maya Rudolph (of Saturday Night Live fame). These are just some of the brilliant women (and friends) Meredith Walker names as those who really embody the Smart Girls message. I mean, just look at the series of poems Amber contributed to the Smart Girls site. A personal favorite? Her love letter to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with her "record on women's rights on fleek."

  • Stream 'Groundhog Day' on Movie Night


    Yes, THAT Groundhog Day -- the 1993 cult classic directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray as he relives the same day (February 2) over and over. Why is this one of Walker's picks? "It teaches you about what you can do with your time and how to become a better person," she tells CafeMom of the notion of finding yourself. "I think it’s very spiritual and I just love it."

    More from CafeMom: 15 Iconic Movies From Our Childhood We're Prepared to Force Our Kids to Love

  • Have Them Join Amy Poehler's Smart Girls Party


    #NationalBestFriendDay shoutout to our forever Smart Girls, BFFs & #WCE, Amy Poehler & Meredith Walker 🙌👭💡

    A photo posted by Amy Poehler's Smart Girls (@amypoehlersmartgirls) on

    Well, Amy Poehler is the organization's namesake, one half of the founding duo, Walker's BFF -- and, if we listen to the idea behind Smart Girls, our bestie and our kids' bestie, too. "We remembered the older girls in our lives made a difference, whether it was a babysitter or someone who lived down the block or went to our church or something like that," Walker tells CafeMom. "If they just thought we were kind of goofy and let us hang around them, it really took us out of the harder times. And so we thought, how can we offer that up somehow? In what way can we help girls maybe skip just a few of the worst steps? Is it possible? Let’s try, who knows." And that's how hundreds of thousands of Smart Girls were born.

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