How Compton G.IRLS Club Emboldens the Next Generation Through Self-Care

From skill-building to resource access, Chrystani Heinrich’s non-profit makes self-care and education a priority for teens from underserved neighborhoods.

By: Jennifer Pauline
How Compton G.IRLS Club Emboldens the Next Generation Through Self-Care

Welcome to our latest series, The Power of Community Care, where we unearth and explore organizations championing collective well-being and meet the people behind them. While self-care remains a large topic in the wellness space, what if we prioritized community care as a pillar of well-being too? 

When you first meet Compton native Chrystani Heinrich, there is no escaping her overwhelming sense of joy that radiates from within. Her infectious smile, childlike sense of enthusiasm, and pride in her community is pure. 

‘I’ve lived in Compton most of my life with both of my parents,” says Heinrich, whose mother, a teacher and Girl Scouts leader, planted the seeds for her love of empowering girls and gender-nonconforming youth, ultimately paving the way for Heinrich’s non-profit, Compton G.IRLS Club

“Because my mom was a teacher because she was huge on literacy and I was — and still am — a book nerd, it ultimately led me to libraries,” says Heinrich, who worked as the library assistant at Compton High School for 11 years. From day one, Heinrich knew being in the library was bigger than organizing books and keeping kids on task; it was also about creating a safe space for teens to explore, learn, and ignite their curiosity.

As a librarian, Heinrich had a front-row seat to the unmet needs of teens in her school. Through this realization, paired with reflections on her own time as a high-school student, Heinrich quickly understood her mission: to serve girls and gender-nonconforming youth through educational programming that would allow them to unlock their most confident, assertive, and independent selves.

Heinrich launched the precursor to Compton G.IRLS Club in 2017 as an untitled, six-week after-school program at Compton High School. Starting small — but with big intentions — Heinrich focused on programs that would expose teens to skills designed to rē•awaken personal development and perhaps inspire a new hobby, from vision-boarding to crafting products (think brown-sugar scrubs) and journaling. By the time they reached the program’s end, teens wanted to know when the next session would be. But the short-lived initiative had come to a close, as had Heinrich’s job in the library. Recognizing a need for more programming and an opportunity to serve a fast-growing community in Compton and beyond, Heinrich launched Compton G.IRLS Club. “When the school was restructured, and I lost my job, I knew it was a sign. I would’ve never left that job if I wasn’t pushed out. I would’ve never done this work,” says Heinrich.

Heinrich debuted the club on Instagram and planned more workshops, and word of mouth about the non-profit spread fast. Heinrich also tapped into a local resource, Serena Williams’ non-profit, the Yetunde Price Resource Center, which became a meeting place for the club and its sponsor. “It reminded me when something is supposed to happen, nothing is going to stop it,” says Heinrich. “Especially if you’re helping youth and your community.”

Over the past five years, Compton G.IRLS Club has served nearly 5,000 people through consistent virtual and in-person programming. They have a dedicated G.IRL Scout troop for grades K-5, while youth in grades 6-12 meet through Compton G.IRLS Club. During COVID, the club experienced an online growth spurt and saw its reach extend to youth in countries as far-flung as Korea and Tanzania. Classes that once catered to 12 attendees were suddenly hosting 50 people.

The non-profit’s largest workshop to date? Sex education. “Compton Unified doesn’t teach this anymore. They don’t even teach health in high school anymore. Our highest number of attendees was 100 people on Zoom,” explains Heinrich. “We weren’t teaching just heterosexual couples; we were teaching about gender, safety around oral sex, anal sex, and same-partner sex. Things people don’t know, but the need is out there.”

When asked what community care means to her, Heinrich, who is also the co-founder of GirlSpace, a collective of women, femmes, and non-binary folk dedicated to the wellbeing of girls in Compton, says it’s about investing in your community — especially when it comes to the next generation. “If you see there’s a lack of something, don’t complain about it,” says Heinrich. “Do something about it.”

Compton G.IRLS Club is a non-profit organization that helps girls and gender non-conforming youth from underserved communities discover confidence through self-care, new experiences, and skills. As it has a no-cost service, Compton G.IRLS Club relies on incredibly impactful donations. All program fees, uniforms, supplies, and sometimes ride-sharing (for ease of access) are all funded by donations and grants. 

We encourage you to support this incredible organization by clicking here.


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