I Am A Queen is a mentoring nonprofit founded by N.C. A&T alum Alana V. Allen. Founded in July 2009, the youth focussed mentoring program is dedicated to helping young girls ages 10 to 18 reach their long-term goals for higher education and leadership.
Not only is Allen the founder and executive director for I Am A Queen, but she is also the owner and nonprofit business consultant for Alana Knows Nonprofits, LLC. It is a way that she can help others who are interested in beginning their own nonprofit but are unsure on how to do so. She offers opportunities for start-up services, website development, public relations services as well as program designs and coaching.
While studying at N.C. A&T, Allen was the president of the Public Relations Student Society of America and was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She studied Journalism and Mass Communication concentrating in public relations. She says her experience in N.C A&T played a very instrumental role in her career journey.
“A&T taught [me] how to step into a room and stand out,” Allen said. “A&T taught me to connect with people and really be intentional.”
Allen created the I Am A Queen organization to help teach young girls about who they are and empower them to be the best version of themselves that they can be. She found inspiration from her own trials in life and how she was able to overcome these obstacles. Being sexually assaulted at six years old took a toll on her life. But holding it in as a secret for over 18 years ultimately destroyed who she was.
“I was on a road of destruction,” Allen said. “It got to the point where I lost my job and I struggled with addiction.”
It was not until she went to church and found forgiveness that things began to change. Allen expresses for a while she did not believe that God existed. She often thought how could God allow this to happen to a six-year-old child.
This particular church service she came to not only helped her forgive the person who harmed her, but she also forgave the many people who made her keep it a secret. Allen describes this experience as her awakening. With tears in her eyes, she began writing ‘I Am A Queen’ on a sheet of paper and that statement resonated with her.
Initially, Allen believed that I Am A Queen was meant to be a book club — and for four years that is what it was. However, she was constantly told by people that she would work great with kids.
Soon, she began to have dreams about working with kids and program ideas would come to her mind randomly all the time. She did not know how she was going to fulfill these things, but eventually, she decided why not give things a try.
“The moment I surrendered [to God] everything began to show up,” Allen said. “ The kids showed up. The facility where we hold programs showed up. The money showed up. It was really a walk of faith.”
The I Am A Queen mission is to empower girls with a crown of confidence through transformational mentoring programs that develop them into strong leaders and community service pioneers. The program has three focus areas: empowerment, education and engagement. These focus areas are to build the self-esteem of these young girls and help them overcome obstacles to prepare them for future success.
“When you work with teenage girls, the focus is on teaching them to have higher self-esteem and how to become leaders,” Allen said. “While working with girls of color, you want to go against every statistic that goes against them.”
Through mentoring programs and service opportunities, it empowers these girls into young women and teaches them to be their authentic selves. This year’s theme for the mentoring program is “Queens Arise.” The program teaches girls the key elements of being a leader and setting things in motion. Allen aims to inspire these young women to reach their full potential, resulting in confident, successful girls who are servant leaders to society.
They have plans to hold their annual teen conference this year with the theme of “I Matter.” The conference is free for girls ages 10-18 and will focus on social justice. The goal is to not only engage the girls in conversations about what is happening around them but to also provide them with the opportunity to do something about it.
One of the other events the I Am A Queen organization hosts is the annual back-to-school drive at Windsor Recreation Center. There, Allen partners with many organizations to help provide children with school supplies for the school year.
Each year, Allen supplies about 800 backpacks for children in need in the community. They also host an annual Christmas adoption program where families can help support single parents supply their children with Christmas gifts each year. They also host community forums, a popular one being the Fatherless Daughters forum where a panel of fathers talk to girls answering any questions they have about life that only a ‘dad’ can answer.
Allen hopes that the girls that go through this program take away many lessons and opportunities. But ultimately she hopes that they learn to love themselves.
“I think that is the most important thing as a woman, no matter what color you are,” Allen said. “When you love yourself, you are going to put more into your life.”