Calling all high school girls!

I am thrilled to announce our 2016 Young Women’s Leadership Institute in partnership with Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest council in Charlotte, NC. Join us for an exciting opportunity to be a part of a diverse cohort of young women on a leadership journey of a lifetime.

Applications for our inaugural cohort and more information is available here. Watch the video below to learn more about our work and hear from some of our participants.  Click here to watch an extended version of this video.

*Originally written for by Val Swan

Girls Grow as Leaders with the Young Women’s Leadership Institute

Brainstorming what an ideal girl leader looks like!

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015, the Leadership Beyond Boundaries (LBB) team was thrilled to welcome 53 young women leaders in 5th-12th grade from all across North Carolina, USA at our Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) Greensboro, NC USA campus for our Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI) 101 program in partnership with the Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont council, and with the great support of the Girl Scouts Hornet’s Nest council. The program is open to all girls and they do not need to be Girl Scouts to attend. This has been a growing partnership with Girl Scouts over the years, with two great programs running at Girl Scout camps last year, and this kickoff event for the new YWLI initiative was a huge success! We were overjoyed at the number of girls in attendance, and the exciting growing momentum of this initiative. Margaret Patterson Whitt, Sarah Miller and I facilitated a packed day of programming, including:

• Creating ideal girl leaders
• Teamwork
• Direction-Alignment-Commitment
• A robust career women’s lunch where the girls got to hear from a variety of outstanding women leaders, including Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, workshops on conflict
• MMTIC (Myers-Briggs personality profiles for youth).

The focus was on supporting and empowering each other and ourselves as female leaders.

Many girls were nervous about not knowing anyone when they arrived, but by the end of the day they graduated with new friends in their midst and were sad to leave. The participant wrote stellar evaluations and over the weekend emails rolled in about the girls coming home bubbling over with what they learned and discovered about themselves. Some girls took advantage of the optional overnight at Camp Keyauwee as well, and continued the fun with campfire activities and leadership on the rock climbing wall. We were so lucky to have a handful of our CCL staff’s daughters and granddaughters at the event!

Silly group shot!

Keep an eye out for two future YWLI programs in 2015: a week long summer camp opportunity July 19-24th at Camp Keyauwee for 6th-8th graders, including one day held at CCL on July 22nd from 10am-4pm, and a program for 9th-12th grade girls on healthy relationships at CCL on Saturday, October 24th, with an optional overnight at Camp Keyauwee.

*Originally written for by Val Swan

Young Women’s Leadership Camp Experience

We were thrilled to welcome 16 girls for a week long young women’s leadership program camp experience in July in partnership with the Girl Scouts Peaks to Piedmont council, which included two half day sessions at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).

The program began on a Sunday evening at Camp Keyauwee program center in Sophia, NC with a viewing of the film Odd Girl Out, based on the book Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons, who has done important work on empowerment for girls, including co-founding Girls Leadership. This led to a powerful conversation around bullying and pressures young women face, and set up our objectives for the week, which included: understanding self and seeing ourselves as leaders in every day moments, values, social identity, mental models, strategies for managing conflict, and understanding what motivates and supports us to show up in the world as a person we are proud of.

Margaret Patterson Whitt and I facilitated packed sessions on these themes, and culminated the program creating an empowerment tapestry, which was a great tool that led the girls into creating their own posters containing messages they need to help them be their best selves.

We were also able to welcome in the Women’s Leadership Experience program participants for a quick impromptu hello and to show off what the girls had been up to, which was a very cool alliance that we can hopefully be more intentional about tapping into next time!

I am proud of the work we are doing. We are continuing to explore partnership expansion and scale opportunities with this initiative and are excited for the future.


Here is a snapshot of impact that we heard directly from the girls on their program evaluations from their time with us at CCL:

I learned:
“More about myself” “That girls can do anything” “How to be a better person and how I can help myself get better at stuff” “To lead big groups” “That people have different strengths and different interests” “How to stand up and be proud but not in a bad way” “About social values and things about myself” “About bullying and what to do to prevent it” “To work together and to be a girl and be proud of it” “To be a better leader, a better person, and a little about myself” “How to be a better leader”

I felt:
“That I had to let go of my black heart and have a red one” “Empowered” “Love” “A sense of empowerment” “Loved and more confident about myself” “Inspired by the information given” “Motivated when we did the empowering messages for girls” “Compassion, inspiration, hope, courage” “To be proud of yourself and how to be a leader” “I felt happy to know more about myself” “Special”

What will you do with this information?:
“Use it to be kinder and treat my peers better” “Spread it to other girls” “I will use it to help my middle school and make a difference in the world” “I will get rid of joking that might hurt someone’s feelings” “I will share with my peers and use it when I’m questioning myself” “Pass it on” “Be a better leader” “Share it and pass it on” “I will take the confidence I have here with me!”

*Originally written for by Val Swan

Building Momentum for Girl Rising


On Saturday, Nov. 7th we partnered with the Girl Scouts Hornet’s Nest Council in Charlotte, NC and Queens University of Charlotte Kappa Delta sorority to host a screening and panel discussion of the film Girl Rising. Girl Rising is a powerful and moving documentary that was created to shine a light on the needs facing young girls regarding access to education. Educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation, yet millions of girls aren’t in school. 

The Girl Rising movement uses storytelling to inspire action that gets girls into classrooms worldwide. The film tells the true stories of nine young women from different developing countries, many of which we do work in with Leadership Beyond Boundaries (Ethiopia, Peru, Haiti, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and India). They encourage social media involvement using the hashtag #62MillionGirls, the current number of girls being denied an education worldwide. See this fact sheet for staggering statistics about girls’ education.


I was privileged to be invited to lead the call to action portion of the day following the rich panel discussion. We had an incredibly engaged and thoughtful audience of mostly young women aged 13-21 and their supporters, who asked great questions and sought ways to connect to this work locally and more broadly. Below are some excerpts from my message:

One of the narrators says, there is no miracle here, just girls with dreams. Yet it was some pretty inspirational and moving stuff, right? So now we know how important educating girls is to literally making the world a better place for everyone. Yet 62 million girls are missing from classrooms worldwide, and so much potential good is lost. We want all girls to have choices and hope for the future – there are 62 million out there waiting for the opportunity to make their mark- knowledge is power. Yet for us, it is so easy to take our education for granted.

I then asked the audience to do some reflection- first to think about their greatest achievement or proudest moment in life, and then to consider what other people have done to help them get there. I shared an example of mine, taking them deeply into some less obvious ways people helped, such as giving me rides to school, making my food, providing computers, cleaning my dorm and classrooms, authors writing the books that fueled my curiosity and thirst to learn, and so on, and then gave them some time to reflect on their own sources of help.

The point is, no one does anything alone. It takes a village to raise a child as the expression goes, and we all had help to get where we are. Everyone can do something, and everything you do matters- all those thousands of people that did all those things mattered to you because you thought about it and wrote it down in this moment. Everything you do has the potential to impact other people.

Maya Angelou said: “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

We start with ourselves first, to seek support and do the things we need to be able to show up in the world as a person we are proud of. And then we ask, how can I bring other girls along with me, just as I have been supported? How can I be that light for another girl? We all bring different skills and talents to the table.

With 310 of us here today, if each of us tells 2 people about Girl Rising,
that’s 620 MORE people who can then carry this message.

It might be a simple as going home and sharing on social media the fact that there are #hashtag #62 million girls around the world who are not in school and denied an education, with our photo and what we love about school, hashtag #letgirlslearn.

It could be being intentional about who and what we follow on social media based on our values, and sharing powerful stories like Girl Rising to inspire others to act too. It might be stopping to really listen the next time a girl shares something with us. Maybe it’s connecting with local organizations doing work to support girls, like the ones that were represented here today. Or signing up for the Girl Rising mailing list on their website to join the movement. We could bring Girl Rising to our community, school or workplace by hosting a screening. There are lots of ways.

A wise person recently gave me the great advice of seeking what is Wanting to Happen. You may have heard the phase, Be the change you wish to see in the world. This means you have to be bold, maybe take a risk, because that change has not yet occurred, right? We must go where the need is, and girls need us.

A better world for girls means a better world for all of us, and each of us has an important role in helping girls rise. Thank you all for coming and for standing up for yourselves and all girls everywhere.

To get involved, please visit:


*Originally written for by Val Swan

Stories From the Leadership Frontier

Leadership Beyond Boundaries team member Val Swan was asked to be the keynote speaker on behalf of the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) for Rotaract’s first ever Young Leaders Summit hosted by the Rotaract Club of Queens University and Rotary District 7680 Rotaract, held at Queens University in Charlotte, NC on Saturday, April 9th, 2016. Rotaract is a global community of young adults sharing ideas and taking action for positive change. They offer clubs for adults ages 18-30 that meet twice a month to exchange ideas, plan activities and projects, and network, and are sponsored by a Rotary club.

rotary1 rotary2

This inaugural event’s theme was Serve, Lead and Inspire, and provided an opportunity for participants to leverage personal and professional leadership skills. Five diverse speakers shared via a TED Talk program format in addition to several panel discussions. Val Swan’s presentation provided an overview of CCL and our work, mission, and pedagogy. The participants engaged in a mini-program experience using CCL’s Explorer tools to reflect on effective leadership and connect with others in a meaningful way around how we show up as leaders, the impact of others on our lives, and the legacy we leave behind.

We are looking forward to exploring possibilities to support Rotaract in the creation of a leadership program for their group in the future, building on our strong relationship and outstanding programming with Rotary District 7680, Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders.

*Originally written for by Val Swan

Talkin' Bout My Generation

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In working with the Center for Creative Leadership's Leadership Beyond Boundaries (LBB) early leadership programs, we like to think back to what it was like when we were around 16 years old, the approximate age of many of our youth participants. In this recent BILL (Big Ideas in Leadership and Learning) Talk on inter-generational leadership I share my experience growing up as Gen-Xer and a notion I call Generational Nationalism, encouraging us to think about how we can foster inter-generational relationships in our own lives.

The Center for Creative Leadership’s staff gives homage to TED Talks by presenting their own rendition in sessions they call BILL Talks (Big Ideas about Leadership & Learning). BILL Talks presenters are asked to prepare a 5 minute presentation following the two IGNITE format rules: 1) You get exactly 20 slides.  2) You get exactly 15 seconds per slide that transition automatically. I presented my BILL Talk at the April 21, 2016 session.

BILL Talks - Val Swan from Center for Creative Leadership on Vimeo.

*Originally written for by Val Swan