BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Inside Arleana Waller’s office, you’ll see many awards from community partners and elected officials. Last year’s Valiant Award from former Congressman TJ Cox is especially meaningful to her.
"Of all the people in the Central Valley, on a congress level, that means he hears us," said Arleana.
Arleana created a real estate development company for affordable housing, and ShePower Academy, which founded the MLK Community Initiative. All with the goal of bettering Kern County and empowering women.
“Historically, women have been fighting to be in spaces that impact their lives so in order to create change, you know, that requires you sometimes to be disruptive, to undo systems, to kind of explode in spaces that typically don’t invite you," said Arleana.
Arleana has thirteen siblings, ten of which are sisters. She has many nieces and watching them grow up made her realize she wanted to support girls starting at a young age.
"These girls are our future and we want to build them, empower them and inspire them to be everything they want to be and more than they imagined they could be," said Arleana.
So she created ShePower Academy. The organization provides young girls mentorship, personal development and diverse leadership opportunities.
"Just fighting for those that don’t have a voice, fighting for those that don’t have strength, and giving," said Arleana.
The most rewarding part? Seeing girls gain confidence to pursue goals and use their voices.
“It's really truly one of the most humbling experience to know you have voice that has a sound that people hear," said Arleana. "I don’t take that lightly. I try to be responsible with that, but it also allows me to build the next generation of leaders.”
It can all be hard work but seeing her efforts impact Kern County makes it all worth it.
“The power of one girl, one average African-American girl can impact our city in this way," said Arleana.
To learn more about ShePower Academy, click here.