Staci Childs and GirlTalk University student podcasting. Photo courtesy of GirlTalk University

When Staci Childs isn’t balancing the scales of justice as a criminal defense attorney in Houston, she is expanding her love for uplifting and promoting positive self-images in young women and girls through her non-profit GirlTalk University.

She is also the author of “Her Beautiful Day,” a children’s book written to encourage kids to be comfortable in their own skin.

Before she practiced law, Childs worked as a fourth and fifth grade language arts teacher for Teach For America. Hailing from Atlanta, Childs brought her talents to Houston with the hope to find her purpose. Her passion and dedication to community service led her to become the 2021 AT&T Dream in Black Future Maker award-winner, and she doesn’t plan on taking her foot off the gas pedal any time soon.

The Defender spoke with Childs to learn about what influenced her transition from education to the legal field and what she plans to do with her award winnings.

Defender: You were an educator before you became an attorney. Why the change?

Childs: When I moved to Houston eight years ago. I was seeking a new job opportunity and taught for Teach for America. Throughout my experience I started to see the inequities and unfair treatment of children in the classroom. There wasn’t enough empathy for the children and how we can support them emotionally. I felt disempowered. Teaching is a way to empower kids, but I felt limited. That’s what prompted me to pursue a career in law.

Defender: How did your experience as an educator shape your work with youth today?

Childs: Houston often touts itself as being one of the most diverse cities in the nation. We have all these cultures and languages. I find that to be great, but it’s also segregated, as well. People experience Houston differently depending on where they are located in the city or the opportunities that are afforded to them. When I first started teaching, I was in an area that was not heavily dominated by Black people. The educational experience for Black kids was not taken as serious. There wasn’t enough culturally-responsive teaching. A lot of the Black kids would get scolded and over-disciplined just for being regular kids. This comes from a lack of culturally-relevant professional development. Even through law school I continued to work with youth. I knew I could be a role model for them and show them what’s possible by living my life. That’s where the GirlTalk University idea came from.

Defender:  What are some programs that are hosted through your non-profit?

Childs: The basic premise of GirlTalk University is to build confidence in young girls by having intimate conversations. Help them gain awareness of self so that they can make better informed decisions. Some of us go through life in silence, and if you can bounce off whatever you’re feeling with someone else, it will make a difference. We do one-on-one mentorship. We also go into the schools weekly where we have planned sessions on specific probing questions around various hot topics. We also have a podcast where we bring men, women, children, doctors, scientists, everybody who is invested in the lives of girls and women. Currently, we have 24 episodes and we will roll out season two soon. We host events across the city at different expos, pep rallies, churches. We have programs for adult women too.

Defender: You are AT&T’S 2021 Future Maker. How did you discover this opportunity?

Childs: Someone who worked for the GirlTalk staff sent me a DM [direct message] and encouraged me to apply. As long as you were doing something positive in the community from my understanding, you qualified to apply. One of the requirements was that I had to make a video. I might be a lawyer, but I feel insecure doing videos. I feel awkward. Being vulnerable and putting yourself out there for a company as big as AT&T is a lot. I did it, and a couple of months later I received the news that I had won and I was in the middle of Whole Food shopping and I was jumping and spinning around. It was a really good feeling.

Defender: What will the funds be used for?

Childs: The award was $10,000. One of the components that I mentioned earlier was the programming we do in the schools. We just secured a partnership with [Worthing High School]. This funding is so helpful because it will be used to pay our staff, pay for food, gifts for our girls. We will be at the school weekly [conducting] the program. We have a GirlTalk manual and it has 34 different modules in this book where we talk about health, spirituality, meditation, dating and politics.

Defender: Any GirlTalk events happening in Houston?

Childs: Our first GirlTalk session happened on November 12 at Worthing. We plan on relaunching our podcast at the end of the year. I want to see the curriculum we’ve created to be mandatory in classrooms across the nation years from now. I want to increase and enlarge this conversation about confidence and self-esteem. Besides that, we want to bring in some more money. We hope to get some grants from the Department of Justice and other federal grants and private companies to sponsor our work.

About Staci Childs:

Criminal defense attorney in Houston

From Atlanta

Children’s book author

Winner of AT&T’s Dream in Black Future Maker Award

Laura Onyeneho covers the city’s education system as it relates to Black children for the Defender Network as a Report For America Corps member. Email her at laura@defendernetwork.com