Established by the United Nations and first celebrated in 2012, International Day of the Girl (Oct. 11) promotes the empowerment of young girls around the world, while also advocating for the attainment of their basic human rights, like education and bodily autonomy.

“Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during these critical formative years, but also as they mature into women,” according to the U.N. website. “If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world — both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders.”

To help nurture and empower girls year-round, UCF’s Center for Research and Education in Arts, Technology and Entertainment (CREATE) founded the “Lead…Like a Girl” initiative. In the program, young women who are 16-24  are provided free online classes in budgeting, leadership, resume writing, interviewing, and other necessary life and career-building skills. Students can self-enroll online for the program here.

“All girls should have the opportunity to prepare for their futures,” says Tracey Morrison, project manager and assistant to the director of CREATE. “Whether it’s to further their education or begin a career, we believe in empowering young women to reach their highest potential.”

In celebration of International Day of the Girl, CREATE’s LLG program also asked women within and connected to the Central Florida community to share stories of strength to encourage and inspire girls who are following in their footsteps. To read some of these stories, visit the LLG program page.

If you have a story to share, please email Tracey Morrison at  [email protected].  Stories may be edited for clarity and shared on social media.