DENVER — Shalonda Haggerty didn't discover her passion. It discovered her, she said.
"It just came to me one night — God gave me this vision," she said.
She is dedicated to empowering young women, not just because of where they’ve been and the trauma they’ve been through, but that vision from God, said Angelia Baker, a member of the STAR Girlz Empowerment leadership team.
Haggerty is the founder of STAR Girlz Empowerment, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching 5th through 12th grade girls how to shine.
"To be a star girl means to be like a shooting star, to be you, to be unique," said STAR girl Kennedi Kenyatta.
Haggerty said she wants to empower Kenyatta and the other STAR girls through their mental, physical and personal lives.
"We wanna help them through families," she said. "We wanna help them have a smoother transition and create healthier lifestyles."
Each week, the group meets to talk about trauma, challenges at home and school and personal development. It provides them with counseling and support, and most importantly, a sense of sisterhood.
"Without programs like this, kids end up in gangs, kids end up in human trafficking," Baker said. "I think with programs like this we get the opportunity to address and identify some of those underlying things and it’s a preventative program that is beneficial."
Haggerty said success looks different for every girl.
"When I see the girls that come through my program and the challenges they go through, when I see that they’re able to overcome those challenges through my help and the help of our staff — then that brings a smile to my face because I know that I’m able to reach at least one person," she said.
As for the future, it's as bright as a STAR girl. Haggerty said she plans to one day expand the program across the country. In the meantime, she'll continue to show up as a 7Everyday Hero.
Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.