Green Goddess: Kindness through an Outdoors Approach

An interview by Tatiana Simmons, Riley’s Way Alumni Intern

My name is Tatiana Simmons and I am a sophomore at the University of Central Florida majoring in Health Sciences. I became connected to Riley’s Way through the virtual Riley’s Way Youth Leadership Retreat in 2020. The following year I had the opportunity to be a Team Mentor. As a Team Mentor I helped foster a sense of community and encouraged participation and connection making for all of the Retreat participants. I’m so thrilled to be involved with Riley’s Way. As the current Riley’s Way Alumni Engagement Intern, I had the opportunity to interview Call For Kindness Fellow, Miarri Philips. Through this article, I hope to connect Riley’s Way Alumni with the Call For Kindness and help spread awareness about the work current Fellows are doing to make the world a better, kinder place.

Miarri Philips is the creator of Green Goddess and is a 2022 Riley’s Way Call For Kindness Fellow. She currently attends the University of Colorado where she studies psychology and sociology. Miarri started Green Goddess because she was always fascinated with the outdoors and grew up going to summer camps. However, she didn’t see a lot of Black and brown girls who looked like her, causing her to feel isolated. She still enjoyed being outside and always felt like the outdoors were a safe space for her. Miarri created Green Goddess as a space for girls of color to be themselves. The mission is to provide emotional and social support for girls of color to develop identity, purpose, and community by providing experiences to the outdoors. Check out my Q&A with Miarri below!

How did you first get connected with Riley’s Way and the Call For Kindness?

I saw the ad on Facebook, and I had just moved to Colorado to amplify the voice of Green Goddess. I had just finished a program [for Green Goddess], and we did not have any money at the time. I wanted to be able to offer more programs, so I applied [for the Call For Kindness]. I am very grateful that I got it and happy to be a part of this organization that puts a lot of emphasis on young leaders.

How has your idea grown since you first started it?

I like to consider myself a visionary and a dreamer. I envision Green Goddess to be so much more of what it is. I think of the longevity and the future about 5-10 years from now and having summer camps and chapters in different states. It has expanded from more than just the outdoors component to holistic healing and what that means for Black and brown girls and their mental health. The opportunity to have more of an educational setting and hands-on experience, not just learning in the classroom. Making sure to include mentorship and intergenerational sisterhood because I think that’s important in expanding and making it innovative. I want to set the tone for what is going to be replicated in the next year.

How has Green Goddess impacted your life?

Green Goddess has really allowed me to take ownership of something. It’s not a business, but having something of yours that you can pour into feels good. I spend a lot of time working on Green Goddess rather than other things because I believe in the mission so much. The impact that we’ve had on the girls in such a short amount of time has impacted me: hearing feedback from the participants and their families. The need for it within our community because change is big right now, and there’s not a lot of emphasis on people that look like us.

How do you feel you and your project embody Riley’s Way values of kindness, empathy, and inclusive community?

Kindness is at the forefront of it. Leading with kindness in everything we do is the impact we are trying to leave on the girls to spread into their communities. We want to create the next cohort of leaders to be empowered in their space and empower others. An empathetic approach and kindness through a leadership role – to display that we’re being kind to ourselves and also kind to others, to help pour into them or areas that you see lacking.

Where does Green Goddess fit into your long-term career plan?

I’ve had a variety of different internships, and there are a lot of gap areas. Gaps that Green Goddess is hoping to fill. I see that when you get into a lot of those spaces within the industry, like environmentalism and sustainability. There’s a huge gap in mental health as a Black woman, and seeing that in our education systems with the criminalization of Black girls or the school-to-prison pipeline. How do we combat those issues? Long term, I would like to work on this full-time.

Tell me about a moment you enjoyed most with Green Goddess.

The planning process when I first did my pilot program. Being able to take people from an urban city and show them that there are places to do the work. An example of this is that we took them horseback riding, and the man that owned it was a Black man and it was nice to show that representation for them.

What kind leader do you admire?

Diamond Spratling, who is my mentor. Working for her shows me the impact that Black women have working in spaces and creating a pipeline that you can be great in the work that you do and not gatekeep from other Black women. I also admire Rachel Askew, who works with Cities United and is the Founder of NEXT Consulting Firm. She is another Black woman who is such a selfless leader and is 110% committed to empowering young people to show up in spaces and places that traditionally exclude us.

How do you prioritize your school work along with Green Goddess?

It is definitely hard because I’m in a space where I’m doing so much with my Fellowship and work-study, etc., which all contribute to Green Goddess. It’s tough to find that balance and I am still working toward it. I struggle with the social aspect but I still take moments to pause by watching Netflix or putting my phone on do not disturb.

What values and principles do you live by?

Integrity is important when building partnerships, to find people that own what they say and stay committed to the things they sign up for. Loyalty is another big one. I’m building a brand, and I want girls to see that I’m loyal to the mission. Communication, kind communication, and empathetic listening are how you communicate with others.

What advice would you give to other people hoping to start a project to help their community?

If you have a vision, just go for it. Just do it. It will be trial and error but own every part of your journey and understand that it’s a learning phase. Give yourself grace because a lot of times, people have one mess up and give up. But be sure to be kind to yourself.