Barnard College Holds Young Women’s Leadership Conference
“With so many different ‘Leadership Programs’ available to high school students, how could this program be any different?” That was my initial reaction when I was given the information on the Young Women’s Leadership Institute conference that would take place between July 6 and July 12th at Barnard College in New York City. I had gone to other “leadership conferences” and I was usually very disappointed. Most of the programs just discussed leadership qualities but never helped you put those ideas into action and students weren’t always very motivated.
On checking into Sulzberger Hall, my first impression was that the girls were determined and intelligent. I realized that they all held at least one leadership position at their high school. It was apparent that these students were chosen for their diversity and unique leadership experiences.
During our first activity we were introduced to our advisors and one of the organizers of the Young Women’s Leadership Institute, Elizabeth Curtis. She explained that we had classes and workshops from 9 am to 5 pm each day that consisted of Feminism 101; What it means to be a woman leader; What type of leader are you; and Stress Management. In addition we also had reading assignments in the book Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation with specific questions to answer each night in a one-page graded response. We also had reading discussions each morning with Allison Kimmich, the Director of Pre-College Programs at Barnard. At the end of the week we were evaluated. If we did well we received a glowing letter of recommendation. Besides all of the other activities, we also had Leadership Labs in which a group of five girls had to devise a project that would improve the entire Barnard pre-College community in one week with a budget of $35. “Many programs like these teach you how to be a leader,” Elizabeth Curtis said to the very nervous faces in the room. Since you are all already leaders, our program is going to help you put it into action.” When were we going to find time? What could we possibly do with $35? We would soon find that our best resource was each other. If I had any reservations about the value of this program before the first activity, it was all gone when the briefing was over. This program was very different; we weren’t being spoon-fed “leadership skills” anymore. We had the chance to hone our skills and put a plan into action.
During the week, besides bonding with other girls, I learned the importance of being a female leader and my Leadership Lab group successfully implemented our original idea for the project: a commemorative scrapbook. We also had the opportunity to go on a field trip to one of three sites, Self Magazine, Newsweek, or the center for Campaign finance. My group visited Newsweek where three female editors who shared their experiences about being women in the workplace, discrimination, and how they made it, welcomed us. All of my friends enjoyed the Young Women’s Leadership Institute conference immensely and were a little disappointed that it was only a week. I would recommend Barnard’s Young Women’s Leadership Institute to any girl who isn’t afraid of working hard and who wants to make a difference.#