Founder of Compton G.IRLS Club, Chrystani Heinrich, saw a mirror of herself in the girls at the school where she worked as an assistant librarian. After graduating from high school, she realized how unprepared she was for college, and had no idea of what she needed because no one taught her what was necessary.
Determined to give the girls in her community a fighting chance, she established the Compton Girls Club in 2017, with the aim to mentor and create a community of young females and gender non-conforming youth from Black and Brown communities in South L.A.
Heinrich’s mother was a teacher who “was huge” on literacy, this inspired her to take up a job as a librarian – in addition to her love for books, and calls herself “a book nerd.”
Speaking to VoyageLA, she shared that she noticed a shift in the way students were obtaining information. The books in the library had basically been rendered redundant because all the children were now using digital resources.
Her loneliness caused her to reflect on her life and ask herself what her passion really was, which helped her to discover that her calling was centered on mentoring girls and women. Aiming to take a step in the right direction, Heinrich started a 6-week workshop club to test the waters; which was a success due to the catchy topics and varying activities that drew in a crowd as the girls got interested.
She notes that she documented it all on social media (Instagram), got a lot of likes, and continued to repost and share them with other organizations and female artists; which caused her following to expand. She then upgraded herself by learning some graphic design tricks and gave the page a new and more exciting look to draw in more young girls and millennials.
The Compton G.IRLS Club, which began as a nameless after-school gathering with 12 girls, has since transitioned into a community-run program that has served over 5,000 people with Heinrich as the head. The club is now situated at and sponsored by Serena Williams’ non-profit, the Yetunde Price Resource Center.
Many members of the Club have experienced one childhood trauma or the other and/or trauma that results from poverty and systematic racism according to WE Work. The programs in the club are structured to break these cycles and teach young adults how to seek the help they need from safe adults.
“In our community, there are a lot of foster kids who are in these systems of oppression. They’re not getting what they need. They graduate school, and the world is just like ‘Figure it out.’ They are not getting long-term skills. If we can start educating these girls when they are in high school, we can intercept that cycle. We can say to teens, ‘Ok, here’s how to take care of yourself,’” Heinrich said.
In an interview with re-spin Heinrich said “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.”
The Compton G.IRLS Club operates both virtually and physically, and also has two divisions; an enthusiastic G.IRL Scout troop for grades K to 5, and a youth Compton G.IRLS Club for grades 6 to12.
Today, the club’s influence has gone past the borders of the U.S. and reaches young people in far-off countries like Korea and Tanzania. Membership is totally free for all and runs on donations and grants.
Heinrich is also the co-founder of GirlSpace, a female-focused community of women entrepreneurs set to empower each other by raising their conscious minds. “If you see there’s a lack of something, don’t complain about it, do something about it,” Heinrich said.