15 year-old Lily Riccio is my featured Changemaker this month. This high school sophomore is doing her part to help shatter barriers and bring down glass ceilings across industries. Lily launched her digital platform, Power of Girl, in April of 2017. It is an inspirational website that she developed to empower young women. Power of Girl features interviews and stories of successful and accomplished women “to inspire the girls of the future”. While growing up, Lily became increasingly aware of how many girls doubted their abilities. She wanted to change that. Lily is not a chef, but I have been using the Changemaker series to help focus on people who help drive positive change in our communities. Lily, at her young age, is doing that. Lily launched her website with the goal of helping girls find inspiration and build confidence to pursue their passions. Lily’s focus is on interviewing strong, smart, kick-ass women to learn more about their aspiring success and to share their personal stories with girls her age. Some remarkable women of note Lily has interviewed so far include; first female Blue Angels pilot, Katie Cook, youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, Caroline Shaw, CEO and Founder of Buzz Marketing Group, Tina Wells, and medical geneticist and Ebola fighter (& Time Magazine’s person of the Year 2014) Dr. Pardis Sabeti. Lily is one hell of a Changemaker in my eyes.
This poised, bright go-getter is not solely focusing on others’ inspiring stories, she is living by example. Lily has “two passions”: filmmaking and protecting the shoreline. In regard to filmmaking, Lily said she “loves to capture moments of all kinds.” GoPro recently featured her in a documentary. Her self-produced video on local confectionaries won her first place in a GCTV Video Contest. An original sketch of hers led to the creation of an original tie for the popular retailer Vineyard Vines. Lily was also an OhMyEle apparel design winner for their 2016 collection.
But Lily’s passion does not stop there. She has become a serious environmentalist after witnessing first-hand the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on her town’s shoreline in 2012. In response, Lily co-founded Waves of Freedom, an environmental group dedicated to protecting beach-goers and wildlife. Her dedication to the environment has led to multiple awards, including a Connecticut Recreation + Park Youth Leadership Award in 2014 and John Goddard Award for Environmental Conservancy in 2017.
Despite her numerous achievements, Lily is not done just yet. Looking ahead, her goal for the Power of Girl is to turn it into a full lifestyle company. Lily is also interested in getting corporate sponsors to award college scholarship money specifically to girls who are interested in various fields. Lily’s activism and ideas encourage all the young girls out there to follow their dreams. Lily believes women have “immense power and they shouldn’t be afraid to wield it”. Lily could not be more on-point, wanting to “convince young girls that we can do anything we put our minds to and hearts into and that nothing is out of reach.”
I had the pleasure of speaking with Lily recently, below are some excerpts from our conversation.
Simmer + Sauce: Most 15-year-old girls do not have their own digital platform encouraging female empowerment and the shattering of industry-wide glass ceilings. What led you to create Power of Girl?
Lily Riccio: At a pretty young age, I discovered the joy in making movies. I knew I wanted to create movies and direct films one day. When I began to look for female role models in this field, I was coming up with a pretty short list. I wondered if other girls my age had the same problem. So, I thought it would be cool to create a platform that brings together successful women from all different backgrounds and careers, telling their stories and sharing their advice to give girls confidence to pursue their passion.
Simmer + Sauce: You inspire others. Who inspires you?
Lily Riccio: I find inspiration from a variety of people. When it comes to caring for the environment, I’m inspired by Jane Goodall; when it comes to writing, I’ve admired Maya Angelou; and in just day-to-day life, I’m inspired by Mother Teresa’s compassion and kindness.
Simmer + Sauce: Are your family and friends supportive of your activism? And have you encountered any negative criticism thus far?
Lily Riccio: My parents have always been my biggest supporters… and my two brothers, too! When I came up with the Power of Girl idea, my parents knew it would be a lot of work, but they encouraged me to go for it. They continually give me guidance and advice when I need it. My extended family, friends, and women I’ve reached out to have been super-supportive, always positive, extremely encouraging.
Simmer + Sauce: You have listed your interviewees in 5 impressive categories: (1) Entrepreneurs + Business Women (2) Creators (3) Scientists + Engineers (4) Athletes and (5) World-Changers. How do you go about selecting your role models?
Lily Riccio: I’m always on the lookout for women who’ve made headlines, received recognition for significant accomplishments in their field or caught my eye on social media. Their educational paths, work ethic, creativity and generous spirit have made them excellent role models.
Simmer + Sauce: As an avid photographer and videographer what are your thoughts on the many image-based social sharing sites like Instagram and Snapchat and the potential negative effects they have on girls growing up today?
Lily Riccio: I do like Instagram (a bit more than Snapchat) because it allows me to share photos I love and connect with friends. On the downside, Instagram can be a toxic environment. There are so many accounts/people with millions of followers who seem to have such perfect lives. I think it’s easy to get caught up in other people’s “perfect” worlds that they create online. It’s always nice to log off or delete the apps for a week to take a break and focus on the real world!
Simmer + Sauce: You have interviewed some impressive women so far. Is there someone in particular you hope to land an interview with and if so, why?
Lily Riccio: I feel so very fortunate to have landed interviews with numerous accomplished women and many “female firsts.” It would be fantastic to also connect with Kathryn Bigelow. Kathryn was the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar and I feel she’s a terrific example of defying the odds and making history!
Simmer + Sauce: I don’t have daughters (only sons) and my sister and I were fortunate to have grown up in a female centered/empowered household led by my mom. What advice can you offer to girls lacking in support?
Lily Riccio: Unfortunately, not everyone is surrounded by a network of support within their family. What I’ve learned by reaching out to dozens of professional women is that there are so many people who are more than happy to make time in their busy day to instill confidence, offer encouraging words or share advice with the next generations of girls. Perhaps girls lacking in support can reach out to a teacher, coach or neighbor for guidance, ask about a mentoring program that may be available at school, or surround themselves with a positive group of peers by joining a youth group or school club. One of the designers I interviewed, Maya Ish-Shalom, told me, “I want the next generation of girls to believe in themselves. You’re capable of much more than you think.” She’s absolutely right.
Simmer + Sauce: You have achieved a tremendous amount in a short period of time. What’s next for you and Power of Girl?
Lily Riccio: The overwhelming response to Power of Girl has been incredible this first year. I’m truly blown away by everyone’s encouragement. It gives me energy and excitement to continue to expand the reach of this platform. I plan to incorporate video interviews on my website, offer seminars for girls my age, and hopefully grant scholarships with future corporate or philanthropic support.
Simmer + Sauce: What is your dream job?
Lily Riccio: My dream job is to be a film director. Ever since I was little, I’ve always loved telling stories and especially making videos. This job would be an absolute dream as I simply love every element of it– writing, creating, collaborating, and making something special that you can call your own!
Simmer + Sauce: What does the world need more of?
Lily Riccio: The world needs more sympathy. Compassion goes a long way and the feeling of being understood is powerful. That’s why I think Power of Girl is so important I’m providing girls with relatable role models that they can look up to and hopefully feel similar to.
When I asked Lily (who is also an avid baker in her free time) to share a favorite family recipe, she did not hesitate and offered up a lovely blueberry-sour cream coffee cake she enjoys making with her mom. This is a simple but delicious coffee cake that is easy to whip up and works well any day of the week. My family thoroughly enjoyed this tasty cake for breakfast recently and I will think of Lily every time I make it in the future. This recipe is from the Breads, Rolls & Pastries Cookbook (Yankee Books, 1981). Please note, I have adapted the recipe format slightly, but no changes were made to the ingredients or quantities.
Blueberry Coffee Cake
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter, room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- confectioners' sugar (optional)
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan and set aside.
- Step 2 In a medium size bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a second bowl cream the butter, eggs, vanilla and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Fold in the sour cream. Mix in the flour-mixture to form a smooth batter.
- Step 3 In a separate bowl add the blueberries, remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Mix well to coat and set aside.
- Step 4 Using a rubber spatula, scoop half of the batter into the prepared baking pan.
- Step 5 Next, sprinkle the blueberry-sugar mixture over the batter.
- Step 6 Pour the remaining batter evenly over the blueberry filling.
- Step 7 Place in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool slightly and top with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
I would like to thank Lily for allowing me to feature her in my Changemaker series. The impressive work that Lily is doing at such a young age is incredibly motivating and speaks to the energy and drive of her generation. Lily is a great example of young activism today, demonstrating that everyone can make a difference if they put their minds to it. I was honored to work with Lily on this feature and I look forward to seeing what she and Power of Girl have in store for us in the future–I know it will be amazing.