For the past 13 years, GlamourGals founder and CEO Rachel Doyle and her team have hosted the Glammy Awards. Since that very first event in 2004, Rachel has lead it to what it is today: a dressy, hot-pink-themed scholarship ceremony that shines a light on some of the most ambitious, hard-working GlamourGals volunteers of the year.
"The first Glammy Awards was held in the lounge of a board member's apartment building," Rachel says. "Today we hold it in the ballroom of the JW Marriott Essex House! Definitely a change, but with the same excitement to honor and thank our volunteers."
GlamourGals (GG) encourages teens to organize chapters at their high school (or college) and make visits to local senior homes to give manicures and makeovers to the elderly there. These makeovers create a unique environment where two generations can come together, form friendships and learn so much from each other.
This year, on Saturday, May 20, GlamourGals provided scholarships (with help from sponsors like Chatbooks and Chic Studios) to six volunteers, who submitted essays detailing their efforts to support seniors. Four Glammy Scholarship Award winners received $1,000 scholarships. Two winners received the Daniel and Lucille Valerio Outstanding Volunteer Award, a $1,000 scholarship, provided by GG Executive Council member Louis Valerio. Lou is also the 2017 Inspiration Glammy Award winner. (The Inspiration Glammy Award honors an established individual whose work has helped to shape the lives of teens and/or the elderly. With his longtime support of GlamourGals and the creation of a scholarship in his parents' names, Lou has had a huge impact on the work the organization does and on the lives of the teen volunteers.)
In their essays, this year's scholarship winners wrote about friendships they made with seniors in their community and the leadership skills they've gained from being a part of GlamourGals. For some of them, being involved with GG helped build confidence and break through their shyness. For others, it's inspired them to go into medical or tech fields to help the elderly. Here, the six winners talk about how GlamourGals has affected their lives and their plans for the future.
Leyla Mulavdic Chapter President Glammy Scholarship Award Winner, 18, New Jersey
One year, when she heard her GlamourGals chapter might be canceled at her school (they didn't have an advisor), she reached out to her principal directly to persuade him of the importance of GlamourGals. Soon, they had a new advisor and the chapter was able to continue its work. Oh, and since 8th grade, Leyla helped to plan a senior citizen prom every year at her high school. Leyla's headed to Temple University in Philadelphia this fall and she plans to become a physician's assistant with a focus on gerontology.
"The whole feminism movement is really important. Women need a say. [The elderly] are a very underappreciated population. These ladies are living in senior homes, and they often don't have friends and they're lonely. To be able to spend a Friday with them and do their nails and makeup and make them feel better about themselves; it just makes us feel good! GlamourGals has really enhanced my quality of life."
Nicholas Sookhoo Chapter Vice President Glammy Scholarship Award Winner, 17, New York
Nicholas is the first male to win a Glammy Scholarship Award. After joining GlamourGals as a freshman when his sister, Christina, was president of his school's chapter, he stayed involved, bringing on new members and helping to design a system to raise enough money to cover all chapter expenses. He's heading to Drexel University in Philadelphia in the fall to study playwriting.
"GlamourGals is a club where guys and girls can come together and serve a common purpose. Ever since that first makeover, I saw the reaction that the elderly women gave me: I would just sit there with each lady, massage her hands, ask about her day, just simple things, and they showed so much appreciation. People don't appreciate conversation anymore and being a part of GlamourGals taught me to open up my mind."
Sara Ullah Chapter Treasurer Glammy Scholarship Award Winner, 17, New York
After coming up with an idea for a Valentine's Day–themed makeover, Sara organized the event and lead her fellow volunteers throughout the day, taking over duties from the vice president and president when they were running late—all things she'd never done before. She says afterward she felt relieved, but proud of herself. Sara is heading to Hunter College in New York City in the fall to study biology and hopefully become a doctor.
"When I first joined GlamourGals, I was one of those quiet sophomores—I was never really [involved] in anything. Becoming treasurer of my GlamourGals chapter was the first leadership position I ever had. At first, I was unsure of whether I should do it or not because I didn't know what a treasurer was and I didn't have any leadership qualities. But with training and help from the other officers, I was able to fulfill my duties as treasurer. And I learned how to overcome my shyness and talk to people through talking to the elderly and being a leader. Now I feel more comfortable initiating a conversation with someone I've never met."
Jacqueline Kerlin Chapter PR Officer Glammy Scholarship Award Winner, 18, Maryland
After seeing how common memory loss is for residents at her local senior home, Jacqueline hopes to create an app or a type of software with memory exercises that'll help to slow down the effects of memory loss and strengthen that part of the brain until there's a medical cure. She's attending the University of Maryland in the fall.
"I think it's so amazing that girls my age are going and giving attention to these ladies that are, it seems, forgotten. There's a lady we visit named Maggie who says she has something like 11 children, but they haven't visited her in almost a year. I was heartbroken for her. Maggie said they lived far away and they were busy. She was just kind of there by herself. During holidays we make the seniors cards and they're so touched. It's amazing to hear their stories, like what it was like growing up during World War II. The ladies say girls now can do all these things [that they couldn't do]. It really puts it into perspective how many blessings we have growing up now."
Elizabeth Quinto Daniel and Lucille Valerio Outstanding Volunteer Award Winner, 17, New York
Elizabeth plans to go to Hunter College in the fall to study psychology and hopefully become a child psychologist. At a recent makeover, Elizabeth became fast friends with a senior named Juliet. They had a lot in common and Juliet told Elizabeth about how she met her husband: She asked him to dance and he said he didn't know how. So she told him she'd teach him! Juliet and her husband never had children, so Elizabeth could see how important having visitors was to her.
"When I started talking to Juliet, I felt an instant connection with her. Juliet told me the love story between her and her husband, and I realized we both loved to sing and dance. Her favorite dance is the Peabody. I believe GlamourGals impacted Juliet's life because we were able to not only give her a makeover, but she was able to have fun. I was shy freshman year [when I first joined GG] and I'm still kind of shy. GlamourGals has helped me more with my communication skills. I always had the other volunteers in my chapter to lean on and give me advice, people to fall back on. We're like a family."
Bailey Watkins Daniel and Lucille Valerio Outstanding Volunteer Award Winner, 18, North Carolina (not pictured)
It was at a makeover, when Bailey was painting the nails of a senior who was especially talkative that day, that the teen looked around the room and saw all the girls and women laughing and talking. It was then that she realized her chapter's visits brought such excitement and joy into the senior's everyday lives. Bailey heads to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall—and she's already buying all of the Tar Heel gear she can in anticipation!
"GlamourGals has really helped me to get out of my comfort zone and realize what a little time and patience can do. At first, I was really scared to paint someone's nails or do their makeup because I was scared of messing up or that they wouldn't like it. Also, I knew that the ladies were capable of saying or doing anything, and that made me a little uncomfortable. But with every makeover, I gained more confidence and realized that it wasn't really about the makeovers at all, but the fact that we were offering the ladies someone to talk to."
Photographs by Maria Gomez