Elmont girl, 10, gives back through her own nonprofit

She discovered philanthropy through pageantry, and founded Meera Empowerment


At 10 years old, Selene Ferdinand of Elmont is already compiling quite the résumé.

A student at Dutch Broadway Elementary School, Selene is giving back to her community through her own nonprofit organization, called Meera Empowerment, which she launched two years ago with the help of her mother, Savitre Ferdinand.

“When I give back to all the kids and children in my community, it makes me so happy to see a smile on their face,” Selene said.

Selene first showed an interest in volunteerism and community service at age 4, when she began entering beauty pageants. She received a letter in the mail asking if she wanted to join the National American Miss pageant, and she decided she wanted to give it a shot.

She was immediately bitten by the pageant bug, and is now in her seventh year of competing, Selene said. Through the competitions, she has learned about the importance of giving back. This inspired her to create Meera Empowerment, to encourage others her age to get involved in volunteerism and philanthropy.

“The reason we keep coming back to pageantry is because it’s all about community service and empowering the youth in your community,” her mother said. “She decided to create her own platform. I wasn’t surprised ­— I was already doing so much with her. I said, ‘Why not?’”

Meera, which is Selene’s middle name, teaches kids in the Elmont community different life skills and lessons, such as how to cook and sew, Selene said. The young entrepreneur added that she also organizes fashion shows and hosts tea parties to raise money for various causes, including ending hunger and finding a cure for cancer.

The fashion show was one of the first Meera Empowerment events she organized, and to this day, it is a favorite of hers, she said.

“We did it in our backyard, and we made around $3,000 — I sold some of my pageant clothes that didn’t fit me anymore,” Selene said. “I invited all my friends and the kids in my community.”

Meera Empowerment also fundraises to award scholarships to students in the local high schools, collects donations for toy drives during the holidays and supports community service efforts organized by elected leaders.

In school, Selene is involved with Teachers of Tomorrow, helping younger students with their schoolwork. She also assists kids in the class of her art teacher, Stefanie Greco.

Savitre said Selene has been involved in other activities over the years, including cooking meals for the Ronald McDonald House Charities, volunteering for Island Harvest Food Bank, and Building Homes for Heroes.

While managing her own nonprofit, Selene also keeps herself busy going to dance classes. She also co-authored a book, “Road to the Crown,” which she wrote with 17 other girls in the beauty pageant community.

Selene said in the future she hopes to take Meera Empowerment nationwide and get more young people involved in her cause.

“I think it’s a good life lesson and it gives (young people) a little bit more confidence,” Selene said. “I think it’s really important to be involved in your own community where you live, because there’s tons of people suffering.”

Selene’s mother said she hopes Meera Empowerment can continue to expand and reshape the young minds of the future.

“I feel it’s a blessing,” her mother said.