Skip to content

Who We Are

The Image Initiative, Inc.®, aims to Enlighten, Engage, and Empower young women of color in Syracuse, New York.


Our History

Nicole Watkins founded the Image Initiative, Inc. in 2005 while attending Syracuse University and engaging in community service.

While there were myriad community programs directed towards the city’s young men (with good reason), Nicole noticed a lack of programs focused on its young women. Nicole saw a need to address specific issues young women of color can face, particularly teenage pregnancy, low self-esteem, and relationship violence.

As part of a course at Syracuse University with Dr. Mary Tschirhart, the Image Initiative Inc., an organization aimed at empowering young women of color, was conceptualized. Dr. Tschirahrt encouraged the project, and Dr. Katina Stapleton worked with Nicole to finish developing the concept and launch the organization. The Image Initiative evolved from an idea on paper to an organization that touches the lives of hundreds of Syracuse’s young women of color.


Imagine Me Achieving Great Expectations

Our mission: Build the self-awareness, self-esteem, and self worth of young women who demonstrare promise, helping them reach the community’s great expectations for their lives. We believe negative self-image is too often a barrier to success for young women of color.

Our goal is to help each young woman form a positive self-image that serves as a springboard to making healthy choices about relationships, reaching high educational goals, and taking charge of her destiny.

We believe courage is a product of encouragement. Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s taking action in spite of fear. For many young women, courage means admitting they don’t know how to love themselves. Courage means leaving an unhealthy relationship. Courage means learning about STD/HIV/AIDS prevention. Courage means daring to dream, live, and succeed when you are told that you cannot and will not.

Sisters Empowering Sisters 2016

Why Syracuse?

For many years, Syracuse has experienced an onslaught of gun violence and gang activity. The city’s young women are not immune to violence and gang exposure, adding pressure to the already challenging task of growing up amidst social issues.

Aerial View of Syracuse, New York on a Cloudy Day

Too frequently, Syracuse’s young women have suffered from a lack of relationship education. As a result, Syracuse suffers very high STD and teenage pregnancy rates. Young African American and Latina women, in particular, seem to face a greater proportion of relationship violence and self-esteem issues.

We believe Syracuse faces unique challenges that require unique solutions. If these challenges go unaddressed, the numbers of young women affected are apt to increase, ultimately impacting the community as a whole. But how can we change?

The Image Initiative is committed to ensuring that young women of color receive the tools and resources needed to be empowered, productive, citizens who contribute to the well-being of their communities.

These young women represent the faces of Syracuse’s future neighbors, community and business leaders, employees and students; isn’t it our responsibility to cultivate their spirits and nourish their souls?

To reach the collective goal, we partner with the city of Syracuse, its residents, and the city’s academic communities.

Over the years, the Image Initiative has provided a means for community-university collaboration. The organization fosters an appreciation for diversity, promotes opportunity and education, and maximizes the positive effects that professional women, community-based organizations, and the city’s colleges and universities can have on developing youth.