I am THAT alumna: ARS graduate empowers students

in ARS News/College Series Archive/Features by

“Something was missing from freshman year [of college],” Tamsyn Stonebarger, Class of ‘13 alumna, said. “I can’t really explain it, but something was missing.”

Tamsyn Stonebarger currently attends the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University as a journalism major. She co-leads the Arizona State University chapter of I Am That Girl, a chapter she helped start in her freshman year of school and plans to be a part of for the rest of her life.

“If we have the largest student population,” Stonebarger said, “why not have the largest population of confident women?”

I Am That Girl empowers women to focus on their physical, emotional, and mental well-being, with a larger goal of strengthening their sense of self-worth.

Stonebarger first became familiar with I Am That Girl when she was a seventh grader at Ann Richards. She still recounts how she watched Alexis Jones, I Am That Girl co-founder, on TV one night, only to walk into the school cafeteria the following morning to see Jones herself. Jones was promoting her new book, “I Am That Girl: How to Speak Your Truth, Discover Your Purpose, and #bethatgirl.”

Shortly after meeting her, Jones learned of seventh-grade Stonebarger’s dream to coach college football. Rather than direct her in a new path, Jones was eager to help, offering to set up a conference call with young twelve year-old Tamsyn and a University of Southern California coach Jones knew well.

“She was all about it,” Stonebarger recalls of Jones’ support.

Stonebarger and Jones kept in touch and made plans to meet shortly before Stonebarger’s high school graduation.

“We had lunch and she was kind of warning me about college, saying, ‘You know, it’s a lot different than you think it’s going to be, especially when you come from a place like Ann Richards.’ And I believed her, but I wasn’t really hearing it,” Stonebarger said.

Jones’s warning proved to be true. Tamsyn remembers feeling off during her freshman year in college, especially when she realized that the missing element was self-confidence in the young women around her. With hopes of helping the young women around her become more comfortable with themselves and boost their self-esteem, Stonebarger founded the Arizona State University chapter of I Am That Girl as soon as she and her classmates returned from summer break in 2014.

Stonebarger’s friend agreed to co-lead and together they held their first I Am That Girl meeting. There are currently about twelve to thirteen consistent members, but during events such as “Real Men night” (a semesterly midnight event with activities open to all students on campus) the turnout can exceed 25.

“[In] our first year in existence, we won the Outstanding Achievement and Contribution [award] from ASU’s Commission on the Status of Women,” Stonebarger said. “That was really cool to accomplish.”

Recently, Northern Arizona University held a mini day-long retreat with their I Am That Girl chapter and invited the nearby Arizona State University chapter as well. Stonebarger now regards this retreat as one of her favorite I Am That Girl experiences primarily because she got to witness not only her own chapter grow stronger, but also two groups of strangers bond over shared emotions.

“It’s so cool when we have these retreats because y’all [chapter leaders] are going to be running I Am That Girl eventually,” Emily Greener, I Am That Girl CEO, told chapter leaders during one of their annual retreats.

On January 7, 2016, Stonebarger, eager to share her new passion with other young women, returned to ARS for a special I Am That Girl event with the junior class. She prepared a curriculum surrounding one main idea: leading with vulnerability.

The juniors entered the in-class event with looks of mixed emotions, but participated regardless. As they debriefed, numerous girls spoke with gratitude, explaining how they felt closer to their class and now had more self-confidence.

After hearing the impact of her session, Stonebarger began to think about what role the organization would play in her future. She plans to always be a part of it, starting a chapter at the law school she will attend.

Not only has I Am That Girl become a significant part of her life, but it’s also helped Stonebarger become more comfortable with who she is and what she wants in life.

“I’m not trying to please anyone, and to be honest, if I don’t end up pursuing journalism and I stick with women’s empowerment I don’t think I would really be disappointed. Yeah, I’m sure people would be like ‘dang,’ but I wouldn’t think about that as being a disappointment because I love it so much.”

Elena is a current class of 2017 junior and returning member to the ARS Polaris Press. After taking a period of absence during the newspaper’s second year, she is now back and ready to investigate new news stories. She is a food enthusiast with a passion for running, even though she’s asked herself “why” as she arrives to school for 7am cross country practice. She enjoys seeing the world and often trips over her surroundings in the process. Ever since she nearly fell into a trash can, she’s learned to that the key to life is: Be vigilant, be safe, and always step with one foot at a time.

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