Tori Stapleton ’19 is convinced that the role models we encounter in elementary and middle school help determine who we become later in life. As founder of Girlz2Women and Boyz2Men, known collectively as EmPower Moves, she has mobilized Hamilton students to engage with local children through games, activities, and conversation designed to build confidence and confront gender norms.
A sociology major, Stapleton created Girlz2Women as an offshoot of Hamilton’s Strong Girls chapter, started by Katherine Kreider ’18 and Eleni Neyland ’18. Where Strong Girls focused on encouraging elementary school-aged girls to participate in athletics, Girlz2Women combines sports and other activities to inspire confidence in middle school-aged girls in all areas of life. Meetings of Girlz2Women, held at the Thea Bowman House in Utica, have centered around such themes as building a positive self-image, defining beauty, and discussing what it means to be an empowered woman.
This year Stapleton introduced a new group, Boyz2Men, to connect young boys with role models of their own. Her inspiration? Growing up with two brothers who “sometimes had trouble expressing their emotions in a healthy way because it’s so stigmatized in our culture in general,” she says. “It’s hard to have important conversations if half of our population is stunted and silenced emotionally.” Boyz2Men meetings are held at nearby Sauquoit Central School, focusing on elementary school-aged boys.
Both Girlz2Women and Boyz2Men have given Hamilton students from different backgrounds opportunities to connect with the surrounding area. Members of athletics teams, a cappella groups, and past orientation leaders have all volunteered with EmPower Moves. “I wanted this group to be a safe space for everyone to confront emotional issues,” Stapleton says. “Most of all, I wanted these kids to know that it isn’t a girly thing, talking about your emotions — it’s a human thing.”