Powerful Woman Project – Shelby Kretz

Shelby Kretz

Meet Shelby Kretz

Shelby’s powerful impact on me…

When I was Shelby’s age I was most certainly NOT thinking about how I could make a difference in the world. She’s done more by the age of 24 than most people do in a lifetime. I admire her passion for giving back and drive to make the world a better place. Shelby has a heart of gold and an entrepreneurial spirit that inspires me to want to be and do more with my life and work. The world needs more Shelbys.

Describe a bit about your background: where you grew up, what motivated you as kid, did that influence where you are now? Any experiences (work or otherwise) that influenced where you are now?

I grew up with my family in Ohio. As a kid, I always loved teaching. I would beg my three sisters to play school with me, and I was always the teacher. I also loved sharing about what I had been reading or what I learned recently with anybody who would listen. As I got older, I realized that teaching was never going to be the right fit for me, but those early experiences helped me understand my passion for education. I was lucky to have parents and sisters who supported and encouraged me to follow my dreams and always pushed me to think bigger. Without their support, I would not have had the courage to go after my goals.

Who and what inspires you?

I am inspired by my students. These children truly show me the meaning of passion, grit, determination, and creativity. They are bright, talented, and motivated to make an impact on the world. Through all the work I do, I constantly think about the impact it will have in making a high quality education a reality for all kids.

What do you do and why do you do it?

I currently work full time doing college access advising for students in East and South LA with a national charter school network. In addition, I am the president and co-founder of 1girl, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing leadership development programming to middle school girls. Lastly, I organize a social impact event called the GiveBackHack, which brings together community members to solve community challenges through social entrepreneurship. In the fall, I will be going to UCLA to pursue my PhD in Urban Schooling.

I work in education because I am passionate about helping students reach their full potential. I learn so much from the students, and they inspire me every single day. I’m also passionate about social entrepreneurship because of the potential it has to impact social issues across the country and world.

What does power mean to you? What makes you feel powerful?

 For me, power is about influence and the ability to make change. I am powerful when I am supporting others, creating changes, and making a positive impact on the world. Power is about being a force for good in the lives’ of others. I feel powerful when I have the ability to influence something for the better.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

The best piece of advice I ever received was on decision making: “There is no wrong answer, but there is a right one. The one you pick will be the right one for you. Decide and never look back.” I was making a huge decision between two career paths that were going to lead me in vastly different directions. I had no idea what to do, and I was agonizing over the choice. At first, the advice scared me. There is a right one? That must mean there is a wrong one too, right? But, no. Whichever choice I made was going to be the right one for me. It would become an important part of my journey. In the end, I was happy with my choice, and I never looked back and thought “what if?”. I felt grateful that I made the right choice. But I know, deep down, that I may have felt the exact same way if I’d selected the other option. I will never know for sure, but if I had, it would have become my path, and that would have been the right choice too.

Did you struggle in standing in your power? If so, how did you overcome it?

When I first launched 1girl, I felt like I was too young and inexperienced to be running a non-profit. I spent a lot of energy trying to prove to people that I was capable, which in the end only left me frustrated and burnt out. At some point, it just clicked that I had to be myself in order to truly make a difference and do great work. I could not sustain trying to impress people all the time because I had an organization to run and a lot to learn. I knew that if I did not stand in my power and confidently lead 1girl, our girls would not get the best experience possible. I needed to stand up and own my title as President to truly make the organization great. I still struggle every day with standing in power in many things that I do – I constantly find myself worrying that I am not smart, experienced, or capable enough compared to the other people around me. However, I’ve come to realize that many great leaders experience these same concerns. We all fight against thoughts that we aren’t good enough, but we must recognize that standing in our power allows us to make an impact on what we care about.

We all have days where we are feeling anything but powerful, how do you work through that?

It is important to remember that everybody needs a break sometimes. Especially being an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to allow yourself to take time off and relax. Some days you might not feel powerful, and that is okay. Take a break, regroup, and get back at it. Allow yourself to be imperfect sometimes.

Which line in the manifesto most rings true for you? Why?

“The purpose of power is to be a unique force for good in the world.” I strongly believe that everyone should be doing work that makes a positive impact on the world. A positive impact can come in many forms – which is why this line rings so true for me. Our power gives us the opportunity to be a unique force for good. The good we put out into the world will be different from what anybody else does, which is why we each can and should have a unique impact through the power we hold.

Learn more about Shelby’s work:



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