Last fall, 14 Girls Inc. girls were selected to participate in the pilot program Young Women in Leadership (YWIL). These girls embarked on a journey to celebrate their exemplary leadership qualities and to develop life skills that promote college and career readiness.

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YWIL was established to emphasize deeper engagement with girls sustained throughout their high school years. YWIL provides the girls with an empowering community of peer and adult mentors, as showcased at their recent graduation from the program on May 7th.

Program Support Coordinator Jessica Morris and Program Specialist Jamila Scruggs planned, executed, and evaluated the YWIL program. At the graduation reception Jessica shared her top five memories from the first year of YWIL:

1. The first day of the program the girls arrived and were very quiet. However, as they participated in the first session activities, their personalities started to shine and their leadership qualities began to surface.
2. A field trip to ExactTarget was inspiring to the girls because they were able to hear from professional women about the paths they took to get to their careers.
3. Professional women across multiple industries sat on a panel that allowed access to information that was both educational and interesting for the girls.
4. The trip to Washington, D.C. which included a tour of monuments and memorials, dinner at an authentic northern Italian restaurant, and an opportunity to shadow congresswomen!
5. Jessica knew that the graduation reception would be on her top five list before the event had concluded. She shared that she was excited to hear their presentations and that she was proud of all of the participants for being strong, smart, and bold.

Final projects answered questions related to leadership qualities and future educational and career goals. Some girls prepared poster boards. Some girls recited original poetry. All of the presentations were genuine and sincere, and each girl was thankful for her experience. Highlights from the presentations are included below.

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D’Janae shared goal to open her own restaurant and also be an accountant. She wants to travel the world to experience how others express themselves through food. She encouraged everyone to focus on themselves as a leader.

Anyea read an excerpt from a Maya Angelou poem, and followed it by stating that she wants to be a neurosurgeon and a fashion boutique owner. She firmly stated that she can do anything she wants to do if she puts her mind to it.

Makala said that before YWIL she could point out a leader, but she couldn’t define one. Now she understands that leaders are responsible and independent, self-motivated and not afraid to take risks. She hopes to be a perinatal nurse.

Jaide’s future career goal is to be a pediatrician because she loves kids. She shared that Girls Inc. has changed her life completely, as she has become a more patient person that works well with others. She shared that she will use the lessons learned to empower her younger sister.

Lauren plans to study computer science and has four preferred colleges to explore. Her career goal is to be the CEO of her own company and create an app. Her definition of a leader is someone that sets appropriate standards and can take charge of any situation.

Miracle shared her goal of going to Stanford for law school to become a criminal defense lawyer or a family divorce lawyer. She said that leaders are creative, innovative, organized and confident. She also said that she is strong, smart, and bold!

Kaylyn shared her original poetry, “Let Each Achieve Destiny,” with the group. She plans to attend Purdue University to become a software developer. She also loves teeth, so orthodontics might also be in her future. She said that she is a leader and a follower, and is responsible.

Alahia had encouraging words for the audience. She said, “If you want something, make a plan and go after what you want.” In her eyes, a strong mind and confidence make a leader.

Cydney is the only senior in the group and is happy to be graduating high school as well. She shared a leadership poem. Her future plans include entering the Navy. She doesn’t know yet what she wants to do, because she wants to be everything.

Adrianna wants to earn an academic honors diploma, and knows she wants to go to college, but is unsure what she wants to study. She is currently the number one freshman pole vaulter in the state, something she takes great pride in.

Kennedy shared her leadership poster board which included her career goal to be a sports analyst like Sage Steele, her idol. Although her ipad stopped working during her presentation, she knew the show must go on, and she concluded a very successful presentation.

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Thanks to a generous gift of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust in honor of Harriet Ivey, and to the Comcast Foundation for supporting this program.