Indra Lyn Owens & Automne Bennett: Friendship Leads to Empowerment

Indra Lyn Owens & Automne Bennett

 

Through their 20-year friendship, Indra Lyn Owens and Automne Bennett adamantly claim that they have never had an argument. So when Owens hatched the idea of an organization with the mission to cultivate young women, Bennett quickly offered help and encouragement in starting the Princess Inc. program.

Princess Inc. is predicated on teaching young women how to lead, to empower, and to serve. The organization’s credo targets education, nurturing talents, bonding with like-minded peers, and pursuing a purposeful life.

Indra Lyn Owens, founder of Princess Inc., returned to Atlantic City after earning a communications degree in public relations and advertising from Temple University.

“I came back to pay it forward, so I went to Automne with an idea to start some type of organization or program to mentor young ladies. From working in a middle school, I realized that many girls needed some mentoring or guidance. I saw issues with self-esteem and promiscuity. If you want to complain or talk about problems you have to be part of the solution, too. So we started Princess Inc.”

Now a guidance counselor at Richmond Avenue School, Indra has witnessed the success of Princess Inc. programs like the Double Dutch jump rope event this spring, the initiative to feed over 300 people in Brown’s Park, and events that focus on team building for the young ladies in the program.

“We’d like to do more in our own community, especially to serve our growing homeless population. We hope to continue to have a cohort of teachable young ladies that we can give the tools they need to move on and leave their own footprints in the world.”

It looks like other parts of the world are taking notice and tracking the success of Princess Inc. in Atlantic City.

“As we continue to brainstorm and come up with ideas, we find that Princess Inc. is becoming larger than we ever expected. We’ve had people reach out to us from Atlanta and Schenectady, NY, about starting Princess Inc. chapters in their cities.”

Automne Bennett, a certified loan officer for financial aid at Atlantic Cape Community College, joined in her friend’s initiative without hesitation.

“Indra actually came to me with the fully realized idea that she wanted to run by me. We spent about nine months putting together Princess Inc. We then set out to find people to help us carry on this mission.”

Once the program gained a foothold, the recruitment process started. Originally a “first come-first served” approach, the lack of firm commitments necessitated a switch to nominations from teachers, coaches, and pastors.

“We then added a mandatory intake process. It shows who is committed, who is buying into the process, and how ambitious they are. There is also a GPA and community service eligibility requirement. We lay out our expectations and provide them with a calendar of events and fund raisers. We have a code of conduct we review, and all events are mandatory.”

Bennett, a graduate of Neumann University and Capella University with a master’s degree in post secondary and adult education, has woven her educational background and job into one of Princess Inc.’s central program planks.

“We try to come up with new initiatives each year because it seems like the needs of the people change. Last year our cohort of girls was all seniors so we focused the program on their college needs. College tripping took us to seven schools on the East Coast. They applied to 50 schools and got accepted at a 50% rate. One girl got a full ride to Kean University, and collectively they got over $200,000 in scholarships.”

It looks like the 20-year, argument-free friendship of Indra and Automne is bearing fruit for a fortunate group of young women in Atlantic City.

-John “Yonk” Rosnick

 

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