Sunny Stars

Sunny Star: Dana Gielselman

Hello friends! I hope this post finds you well. I’m sorry for the delay…just when I think life can’t get any busier, it does! I have been working hard on my doctorate at Pepperdine and finding time to write anything but assessment and intake reports are hard to come by these days.

With that being said, I am SO excited to share this interview with a fellow NCL Sustainer, Dana Gielselman. I met Dana this past summer when I came into the NCL Headquarters to film a video. Dana is a fellow UCLA Bruin, Disney intern mastermind, and a total rockstar. I’m so excited for you to learn from this stellar lady. I especially love that she is pursuing a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). She is a reminder that girls can do ANYTHING and I hope that you’ll be that much more motivated after reading her story.


1. You had the incredible opportunity of taking not one, but two Disney Imagineering classes at UCLA. On top of that, your team won the competition! Can you tell us more about this experience?

The Disney Imagineering courses at UCLA are by far the most incredible classes I’ve ever taken. For two quarters, weekly speakers from Walt Disney Imagineering would come tell our class about their roles, the process behind creating immersive, themed entertainment, and fun stories about the parks. I was amazed to learn about the collaborative dynamic between creativity and technology at Disney, and I was so excited to be selected to join the second quarter. I then worked in a creative design team with five amazingly talented fellow students. We spent the quarter redesigning a department store model and ultimately presented our project to executives at the Imagineering headquarters. I can’t believe how much I learned; it was one of the most magical experiences of my life!

  1. What was your favorite memory during the Imagineering classes?

Having the chance to work together with an incredible team was definitely my favorite part of the experience. It’s pretty rare to work in a group for a whole quarter and become so close, let alone a group of such motivated, creative individuals. We all had very diverse backgrounds, and it was so neat to see all of our different ideas come together to result in a new, creative solution to the challenge. Getting a behind-the-scenes tour of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure with Tony Baxter—the Disney Legend behind projects such as Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, The Indiana Jones Adventure, and Disneyland Paris—was pretty unbelievable, too.

  1. Winning the competition required your expertise in math. So many young women are afraid to pursue a major or career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). What has your experience been like as a math major and are you glad that you are pursuing math?

Before college, I loved math because it came naturally to me, and I’ve always found it fun to work with numbers. However, I now love math because it is the greatest academic challenge I have ever faced. I actually didn’t learn what math is truly all about until my second year of college in my first upper division course, Linear Algebra. Math is about taking a statement and explaining why that statement is true or false through logical reasoning. It’s not really about plugging numbers into equations; it’s a way of thinking. Choosing to major in math has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made because it will really help me in any field I choose to pursue.

  1. What encouragement would you have for young women who are considering, or perhaps doubtful, about pursuing STEM?

I would say to not let anyone or anything hold you back from pursuing STEM! The difficulty of science concepts and classes can sometimes be pretty intimidating, but there is so much to learn whether you ace these classes or barely pass. I’ve been in both situations, and it has honestly been so rewarding to see myself grow because of these opposite experiences. So don’t let the challenge hold you back! It’s also important to remember that grades are ultimately just a letter; it’s the understanding of the material that will truly stick with you in the long run if you put in the work. That’s the best part about STEM fields/majors; they’re all about explaining the world we live in, which really applies to anything you decide to do in life.

  1. You have been a National Charity League volunteer and intern. What has this experience been like for you and why are you a part of this organization?

Being a part of National Charity League throughout school and throughout this last summer as an intern has been life-changing. Through the organization, I’ve learned the value of service as I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with my mom and work with incredible philanthropies such as Ronald McDonald House Charities, Military Support, Family Assistance Ministries, etc. NCL has provided me with so many opportunities to grow and learn leadership, professionalism, etiquette, and communication skills that will continue to help me for the rest of my life. I will also be forever grateful to the wonderfully kind, supportive team at the NCL, Inc. Headquarters for the unforgettable internship experience this summer. As I collaborated with the team on a number of projects, including the launch of NCL, Inc. on multiple social media platforms, I learned more and more about the organization’s impact and incredible work from the inspiring leaders behind it. I can’t wait to stay involved in the organization for years to come and to see how NCL continues to grow!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Sunny Star: Shinjini Das

Hello friends!

As you may know, I am now partnering with CAMPUSPEAK and I am thrilled about this new adventure. Part of what I love about this organization is that I have the opportunity to be surrounded by incredible fellow speakers.


One of them is the fantastic Shinjini Das, the ultimate “Go-Getter Girl.” At 24 years old she is taking the world by storm and I had to share her story with you. I hope you’re as inspired by her as I am!

Here’s our interview:


  1. You are known as the “Go Getter Girl.” What makes you a go-getter girl?

A go-getter girl truly believes that her story will be one of the greatest stories ever written. Her self-worth comes from a deep powerful reservoir of energy within, and she has an incredible amount of mental strength, which drives her to achieve the insurmountable. She is driven and extraordinarily empowered from within, and I am happy to share that I based my globally recognized Huffington Post article, “5 Secrets of a Go-Getter Girl” on my own life and journey as a go-getter girl who seeks to fulfill her own vision of herself first and foremost.

  1. Many girls are shy and afraid to approach others. How can girls overcome the fear to connect?

Great question! What I want all my girls to understand is that fear is an inbred emotion, meaning that it truly has zero basis and only has validity if we choose to validate its worth. I choose to not let fear or indecision dictate my life, and instead invest in ultra high self-confidence, happiness, and soaring levels of high self-worth in crafting my story. Focus on yourself and understand that in order for you to succeed, you must reach out to someone, so in essence, reaching out to someone is a means of serving yourself and your highest purpose. I am sure you respect yourself enough to want to achieve your own dreams, so what are you waiting for? Today is the day to network and overcome your fear to connect with others. You got this!

Shinjini Headshot

  1. What do you want to see for the newest generation of girls?

My greatest dream is to envision the next generation of go-getter girls become fierce women poised to change the world. We desperately need more empowered women in our world, those who do not let life happen to them, but rather make life happen for them. There is nothing more attractive than a woman who recognizes her own self-worth, and understands the steps required to convert her dreams into a reality. Girls and women are powerful beacons of light, and I want to encourage more of us to own our own power in the quest to change the world.

  1. How can we empower women to reach their highest potential?

The greatest gift a woman can give to herself is acute self-awareness and acutely high levels of mental strength. She has to derive her entire self-worth from within her own inner reservoirs of overflowing positive energy, and seek solace in her mind of incredible mental strength during times of indescribable struggle and an insane number of lows. I would highly recommend that each woman develop an inner reservoir of positive energy by deriving inspiration from her favorite sources, and engaging in re-affirming self-talk to build up her unbreakable levels of mental strength.

  1. What do you wish you knew when you were starting college?

Crafting one’s own path, admittedly far more difficult, is infinitely more rewarding than adhering to someone’s notion of how life should be lived.

Want to know more about Shinjini? She’s a Keynote Speaker, trilingual Multi-Media Personality, Huffington Post Contributor, and Brand Spokesperson with a social media following of 41,000+. An empowering and globally recognized versatile talent, she has been featured on ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS, Sirius XM, Forbes, is fluent in Spanish, and was invited to moderate a panel at The Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in recognition of her global advocacy efforts to empower women and youth. This past March, she was profiled in INC. Magazine as a Global Hero to share her thoughts on broadening international access to education for girls. Follow her journey @SpeakerShinjini and on

  • Twitter @SpeakerShinjini
  • Facebook Public Page @SpeakerShinjini

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Sunny Star: Julia Gallagher

There are some people that I meet during my travels that I will remember forever. Julia Gallagher is one of them. One of those kind-hearted souls that you encounter and immediately like, Julia is a friend to many. I first met her during my trip to Tulane University in January of 2014 to help with Chi Omega’s recruitment. Julia was a standout member and I got to see her ability to lead when I visited the chapter once more for their annual visit later that spring. Julia was gracious enough to show me around New Orleans and I will also be thankful for her hospitality and generosity.


Now, Julia has a mission that is making a tremendous difference. She has partnered with Mama Maji, a small non-profit that uses water to help women flourish. I interviewed Julia and her answers shed light on this issue that often goes unnoticed. Ultimately, Julia has a goal of raising $4,000 and it is my sincere hope that you will help her with this.

Here is my interview with Julia so that you can learn more:

1. You’ve been working with Mama Maji in New Orleans, Louisiana. Can you tell us more about this mission and what called you to it?

The mission of Mama Maji is to empower women to change their world through water. I was first called to this organization and mission because I was interested in the water crisis. The water crisis is the fact that there are 748 million people living on earth without access to clean water. This is a pressing crisis because water is so essential to life and humans truly cannot live a healthy life without it! However now that I have learned more about this organization and the water crisis, what really calls me to the mission of Mama Maji is the women’s empowerment. Mama Maji is just as much about solving the water crisis as it is about empowering women. Women are an intense part of the mission because in most developing countries, women are the ones collecting water for their families…whether it is clean or not! Therefore it is disappointing to know that only 14% of water projects worldwide involve women in the planning process. Doesn’t that seem silly when THEY are the ones who know most about it?! I am called to Mama Maji’s mission because I know that involving women is the key in attempting to solve the water crisis.

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2. How do you see Mama Maji bringing happiness to those in need?

I definitely see Mama Maji bringing happiness to the women who get to participate in the community trainings. One method that Mama Maji uses for women’s empowerment is hosting trainings for community members to learn skills such as small group management, sustainable business practices, public speaking, and grassroots marketing. With these skills they are able to seek new opportunities and let their passions manifest. They find happiness in knowing they are creating positive change in their communities.

Also in the simplest way… without thinking about all of the other things that water is used for, simply drinking water brings happiness. Do you know when you’re feeling kind of slow, feel a headache coming on, have trouble concentrating, and start getting kind of irritable… and then… you realize you haven’t had a glass of water all day! If you are someone who is really good at staying hydrated I applaud you. But I know that sometimes all it takes for me to turn my mood around is remembering to stay 2

3. What has been the greatest challenge that you’ve faced in this work?

My greatest challenge is feeling small against a huge issue. It is easy to feel like nothing can be done. When millions of people don’t have water and water projects rarely involve women, it feels like the barriers are too big. Thankfully I am able to confront this challenge with a poem by Emily Dickinson that serves as a motto in my life, because I know that each moment of my life can have a positive impact on something no matter how small.

Not In Vain

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain: 
If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, 
Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again, 
I shall not live in vain.

4. What moment of pure inspiration have you had that motivates you to continue offering help?

I have a lot of strong women mentors in my life. They span from peers, to family, to former bosses, to sorority advisors. Whenever I have conversations with these people I both feel inspired by what they have to say and simply by their presence in my life. I know women all over the world have it inside of them to be this person for others too, but when they are burdened with the task of spending hours each day collecting water this isn’t always a possibility! I am motivated to continue offering my time so that I know women in other parts of the world can experience the opportunity and inspiration that is an empowering part of my life.

general 1

5. How can we help?

I have a crazy goal of raising $4,000 to help complete a water project in Kamrongo, Kenya. This money will finish the piping for a water kiosk as well as train community members so that the women can run the kiosk as a successful business! Truly any dollar amount is effective and appreciated toward this cause. If you are not interested in giving financially but know that people you know would find this interesting, have fun by sharing on social media! You can make a social media post with the hashtag #wherewomenare and fill in the blank of what you believe happens where women are. For example I believe #wherewomenare there is motivation! Either way here is the link to my fundraising page which you can visit or share!

6. Last thoughts?

I love how you talk about how a part of happiness is giving back and especially that Millennials are more philanthropically minded. I read articles about both of these facts all the time but often I don’t see them in practice! I challenge young people reading this to take a look at my fundraising page and do it with a critical eye. If this is something you believe in as well, please consider making a donation! If it is not and you are passionate about something else, I challenge you to live your creed, do some research, and figure out the organizations who are BEST contributing to that cause. I can verify to you that Mama Maji is an organization that is making an efficient and effective use of their money fundraised because of their involvement of women within the water crisis. We, as philanthropically minded millennials, have so many organizations in front of us to give back to, but it is SO important to do your research first and make sure they are having an effective impact.

Let’s support Julia in this cause–don’t you think it’s worth it?

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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