DETROIT (WJBK) - It all started with a literacy club at school, but now it's turned into a chance to make a big difference.
Three Detroit students got a chance to share their mission with the world. They call themselves The Positive Girls Project, and they traveled all the way to the United Nations in hopes of making an impact.
"We always wanted to build girls' self-esteem up not push it down - we always want to have the girls be strong," said Aniya Spears.
At just 13, Aniya is wise beyond her years. She and other members of her literacy club at school have been noticing some disturbing trends among girls their age.
"Some girls' self-esteem is like, very low," Aniya said.
"Some girls are having suicidal thoughts about killing themselves because of what other people think," said Amaya O'Neal. "And what they don't know is what a lot of people think doesn't matter, it's their opinion. It's what they think about themselves really matters."
They say society has too many bullies - some boys, some girls - tearing people down about everything from their looks to their intelligence.
"It's really terrible to think that someone would actually say those hurtful things to a person," said Alicia Goodman. "Because you wouldn't want to be called that, so why would you say it to somebody else."
It is why the seventh and eighth graders from Noble Elementary and Middle School in Detroit developed The Positive Girls Project. They're working on a safe space and positive messages for girls.
"You're smart; you're beautiful; you’re kind," said Spears.
It was this project that they recently developed and presented in New York City, where 25 girls and their mentors from seven different countries gathered for The Global Glow Herstory Summit, complete with a trip to the United Nations for the International Day of the Girl.
"Besides camaraderie, it was empowerment," said Shawn Forman, the Lit Club mentor. "It gave them an opportunity to shine, which a lot of times they don't get. This is the first time for them leaving their family; this is their first time flying on an airplane; this is their first time leaving the state of Michigan, let alone the city of Detroit."
Shawn Forman was with the girls as they got a chance to see the world by meeting other girls from Nepal, Brazil, Uganda, Kenya. Some of what the girls learned is happening in other countries was upsetting.
"What alarmed me is when they said girls age 12, 13, or 14, had to get married to a dude," said Alicia.
"A grown man," said Amaya.
It's the kind of knowledge that's only serving to empower these young lives.
"Girls should not be pushed around and should be shown more respect," said Alicia.
It's a life lesson they're bringing back to Detroit, hoping to have an impact right here at home after being impacted by this trip of a lifetime.