New York City girls learn leadership skills
Nine girls from New York City spent a week on the Stephens College campus this July learning what it takes to be a leader.
It’s part of the Leadership Academy, a partnership that allows Girls Prep, Lower East Side Middle School to send seventh and eighth graders to Columbia each summer to see powerful women in leadership roles.
“The Girls Prep mission and the Stephens College mission are so closely aligned,” said Alex Newfield, director of high school admissions and college completion at the middle school. “We want to empower women, and this fosters that in a college setting. It’s not only inspiring but also makes the idea of becoming a leader real and the idea of college completion that much more attainable.”
The girls are having a busy week. They’ve visited the Stephens College Equestrian Center, toured MLK Memorial Park and completed service projects at Columbia Second Chance and the Central Missouri Food Bank.
On July 17, they heard from local female leaders, including Janice Dawson-Threat, community impact director for the Heart of Missouri United Way. As a young African-American girl growing up in the 1950s, Dawson-Threat said she was told she could not do a lot of things. However, she went on to defy the odds, completing her Ph.D. and finding her calling. She encouraged the young women to similarly create their own opportunities.
Dawson-Threat joined Aimee Davenport, a Stephens alumna and Columbia attorney, and Jan Beckett, a retired nurse and member of the Boone Hospital Center Board of Trustees, for a panel discussion about what it takes to be a leader. They urged the students to work on developing strong communication and other basic skills, so they can be prepared for any career.
“You never know when opportunity is going to knock, so you always have to be ready,” Beckett said.
Student Laura Pires said she was encouraged by the presentations.
“I learned how hard women worked in the past just to get to this point,” she said, adding that Dawson-Threat’s story was especially inspiring. “She was judged for gender and race.”
Yvonne Chamberlain, director of leadership and diversity at Stephens, said she hopes the students take away a better sense of how they can develop and grow.
“What I hope they gain from this experience is the drive and ambition to seek out leadership roles,” she said.
Stephens College hosted its first leadership academy for Girls Prep students last year, and the year prior held a film academy for the New York students. The College also is offering scholarships to Girls Prep students who are academically eligible when they graduate. Last year’s eighth-grade class will be the first to make the transition to high school from the charter school, which opened in 2009.