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 www.leadbeyond.org 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 www.leadbeyond.org 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: http://girlrising.com/grow-the-movement/index.html#a-call-to-action


*Originally written for www.leadbeyond.org by Val Swan