Empowering Young Women
I recently spent some
time with a young Latina woman who is a graduate of Mount
Holyoke College. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree
in neuroscience at the University of Chicago. While the great
promise that that this young woman holds as a future contributor
to scientific research is certainly remarkable, what is perhaps
even more impressive is her history: before her acceptance
to Mount Holyoke, she was considered a student “at
risk”—at risk of dropping out of the public school
system, and at risk of not fulfilling her vast potential.
Through the Liberty
Partnerships Program (LPP) at Bank Street College, this young
woman turned “risk” into achievement.
LPP provides teenagers with mentoring, role models, tutoring,
academic skills, enrichment, a safe environment in which to
congregate, and most of all, encouragement to believe in themselves
and pursue their goals. The support this young woman found
at LPP contributed immensely to the success and accomplishment
that characterizes her life today.
But while she is now excelling, countless other young women
like her are still not able to realize their potential or pursue
their dreams. These students do not innately lack ability,
a view too often held by many both privately and publicly,
but rather lack the support of accessible role models who can
push them to aim high.
Those who are in positions
of leadership in schools and colleges across the nation must
share in the responsibility of supporting women’s professional
goals, whether through programs such as LPP or through other
strategies that may offer support and encouragement in other
ways. At a time when more than half of college students in
America are women, we owe it to ourselves to help these young
women realize their dreams.
As we salute the achievements
of women during Women’s
History Month, we must believe in and support today’s
teenage girls, who will be tomorrow’s outstanding women.#
Augusta Souza Kappner is president of Bank Street College.