Being International Women’s Day, we’d be silly not to highlight a woman who’s working hard to inspire and challenge her gender every day. Although her focus is on young girls and women, her approach can easily apply to anyone at any stage of their life.
“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
The question, casually brought up by a friend five years ago, took Ann Drew Yu off guard. At the time, Yu was a middle school English teacher in Minneapolis, eager for something new.
She recently had become fascinated by the art of feng shui—specifically the way it uses the physical orientation of a room to spark mental inspiration—and had wanted to find a way to share its intents with her students. But she had never seen it becoming a reality. Until then.
“One thing led to another,” says Yu. “And the idea came for the Intention Box.”
After working first-hand with middle school and high school-aged girls (and having once been a teenage girl herself), Yu saw a need to empower young women through an objective-based tool, dubbed the Intention Box for Girls.
The box set contains a deck of cards asking thought-provoking questions (“What positive thought would help me today?” or “How can I get more comfortable speaking up?”) and a journal to record girls’ responses and own unique goals.
Yu says that her Intention Box for Girls “gives young women life skills that go hand in hand with change.”
Now, two years after Yu’s first box hit the market, the kit is widely popular among young girls across Minnesota, and Yu’s new 8-week public school program based off of the box has attracted interest from a handful of teachers.
But how did she ignite her own intentions to bring the product to this stage?
It all goes back to analyzing her own missed intentions in her youth.
“I would have loved something like this as a girl,” she says. “Imagine being able to explore forgiveness, kindness and self-exploration at that stage. If you learn how to form your intentions in life early on, it sticks with you.”
To understand the real questions that would help pre-teen and teenage girls visualize their goals, Yu met with teachers, parents, and therapists to get inside their heads. But, she says, she found the real answers in working with young women themselves.
“It amazes me how intuitive younger girls are,” says Yu, who test ran her first intention box with a group of 10 to 15-year-old girls. “To hear how they made [the box] their own and what they thought it was missing, that was the most helpful.”
But there were certain parts in the development process where Yu had to rely on her own creativity. To financially kickstart the Intention Box, Yu took out home equity loans on her own house and reached out to already-cemented supporters across the city for a financial push.
“The whole project was very intuitive, driven by passion and creativity,” she says. “And I had to take some chances.”
Yu says that the money put into the project has almost paid itself off. But, she stresses that it was far from easy.
“This was no overnight success story, it took over ten years to bring my intentions into something tangible. But that’s not meant to discourage anyone,” she says. “It’s best to just always have your eye on the immediate future. Take it as it comes, step by step, and you will get there.”
Do you know a young girl who could benefit from the Intention Box? Or have your own questions about setting personal goals? Feel free to contact Ann Drew Yu at firstname.lastname@example.org.