Hello! My name is Ava Lyons. I am a teen who joined the emerge360 program in late June and it has already been an experience that will remain with me for life. I had been shopping at The Closet for 3 years and I already adored Lori Ann! What I did not know is that there was an existing program that teaches young women like me business and philanthropy skills. When my mom had informed me that they were looking for new teens to join the program, I knew that this was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

When I first joined the program, I had a lower self esteem and especially struggled with being put on the spotlight. Though I’m only just finishing my first 16 week segment, I have already gained so much confidence. Not only am I more familiar with business and philanthropy skills, I am totally more comfortable with myself.

One example of a confidence building practice was when I worked with Lori Ann and Karen to make a video for The Closet’s social media, advertising these beautiful, authentic coach necklaces. This was hard for me because when I am being recorded, I often space out and get silent. But after a few tries, I was able to perfect the video and I felt so much better about myself. Another practice I’ve done was talking to customers. Although I have experience with customer service, sometimes it’s hard to keep a conversation with them because I feel so nervous. Though I am still working on my confidence in speaking to customers and helping them find the perfect product, I feel like I have shown progress over time.

These were great examples of confidence building practices I’ve done over the course of this program but the absolute biggest challenge for me was walking the boat night parade. If I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure I could do it again, and that’s okay! Walking in front of hundreds of people in a dress (which is something I don’t typically wear) was a HUGE step for me. This did raise my confidence standards by a lot though! I am now able to say “I’ve walked in a parade surrounded by hundreds of people, this is nothing, I’ve got this!” Even though I was nervous, it was a blast seeing all the little girls on the sideline thinking we were princesses!

There are plenty more big steps I’ve taken, but overall the emerge360 program has definitely shifted me into less of a shy person and more like someone who isn’t really afraid to stick out!

If the emerge 360 program has taught me anything else, the biggest one to me is that The Closet itself holds so much meaning that not a lot of outside customers see. One example is the Word Wall. Not many people notice the Word Wall until we tell them the story. The Word Wall is the pretty pink-ish wall in the back, next to the dressing room, which has lots of different words painted in a beautiful font on it. Or so that’s how most people would describe it. The word wall is actually super significant to The Closet. It started when our founder, Karen Palka, had a group of her loved ones write their favorite Bible verses on the floor before the carpet was put in. After this, Karen chose a powerful word from every Bible verse and painted it on the wall. This meant a lot to me personally because the Bible verses and the words from them created a very loving energy throughout the store and brought God and his love into the atmosphere of The Closet.

I think the Word Wall is such an important detail of the closet and in my opinion, everybody should know its story.

In conclusion, the emerge360 program has taught me so much and has truly made me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I look forward to spending more time with everyone as I continue to grow.