A Strong Community to LEAD the Women of our Future


As the founder and executive director of LEAD Girls of NC, a Winston-Salem-based nonprofit focused on developing self-awareness, confidence and leadership skills in young girls, I’m immersed in this work, yet even I found myself struck by a statistic from the National Report on the State of Self-Esteem: 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with family and friendsAt LEAD, we recognize the critical importance of supporting, encouraging and mentoring at-risk girls to help them see their value and know they absolutely do measure up.

This mission and our work would not be possible without a strong community of women here in Forsyth County stepping forward with their time, talents and treasure. When I started LEAD, I self-funded the organization for its first six months as we built a network of board members, donors and volunteers.

Now, six years later, LEAD has grown from serving 66 girls per year to more than 350. We’ve expanded our in-school programming facilitated by LEAD’s professional staff to nine middle and high schools across the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district. Within these schools, we’re also working with more grade levels to further grow the number of girls we serve. In the community, we’re hosting record numbers of girls and their parents at our community programs such as the Fall Expo and summer fashion entrepreneur camp. And, in late 2022, we’ll grow our physical footprint as LEAD moves to larger office space where we can host group activities and other events.

This exciting momentum would not be possible without our dedicated LEAD volunteers, advocates and donors. As LEAD expands to serve even more girls, we know our community of support also needs to grow. If you have a passion for our mission, please consider becoming a LEAD volunteer and supporter. It’s so inspiring for our young girls to see the amazing women involved with LEAD.  Your belief in them and in LEAD energizes us to do even more.  Our girls will change the world! www.leadgirls.org.

After participating in LEAD Girls of NC programs, participants reported…

90.0% said they have a number of good qualities.

79.0% said they are satisfied with themselves.

Joy Nelson Thomas is the founder and executive director of LEAD Girls of NC. A graduate of Salem College, Joy lives in Winston-Salem with her family. Outside of work, she loves family time at the lake, hosting large family dinners and her new-found love of gardening.


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