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    Members of the Society for Young Women Leaders stand with some of their mentees from Georgetown High School.

Southwestern women start new organization to guide Georgetown High School women toward success

After arriving at Southwestern, Sarah Gould found some good mentors who have helped her focus her career goals. 

Now, Gould is trying to offer the same opportunity to high school students.

Last fall, Gould established a new organization on campus called the Society of Young Women Leaders (SYWL). In addition to providing support to each other, group members began mentoring five young women from Georgetown High School this semester.

“I wanted to create a forum for young women to come together and learn about what it means to be a female in the professional world,” said Gould, a junior who is majoring in English with a minor in business. “I want to help women think ahead and be prepared for their futures.”

The ultimate goal of the program, Gould said, is to make sure women have a presence as leaders, both in business and the community. “There aren’t enough of us there yet,” she said.

Program participants also want to help address women’s issues such as pay equity and homelessness.

Gould worked with the Project Mentor Program sponsored by Georgetown Partners in Education to identify students who might benefit from mentoring by Southwestern students. “Our target audience is high school women who have demonstrated leadership ability, have good GPAs, and a desire to succeed,” she said.

Gould, who hopes to attend law school, said her group’s goal is to connect with young women at the beginning of their high school careers and be able to work with them for several years. “That way they can hit the ground running before they get to college,” she said. 

Right now, the group is trying to identify 8th graders who would be good candidates for the program next year.

The five Southwestern women who are mentoring high school students this semester meet with them once a week at their own convenience to share experiences, advice and current information in their field of interest. The pairs were matched based on academic and career interests. In addition to Gould, Southwestern mentors include Emily Goodman, a first-year political science and math major; Jean Haire, a junior communication studies major; Rachel Nowlain, a first-year business major; and Chanea Wells, a sophomore English and feminist studies major.

“I think with each passing generation women are gaining strength in their quest for equality, and I want to do what I can to help future women realize their potential,” Haire said. “The SYWL gives me an opportunity to make a positive impact on a high school girl, and hopefully allow her to feel more empowered about her future.”

In addition to weekly meetings with their mentors, the high school students attend the monthly SYWL meetings on campus. At these meetings, they have a chance to hear speakers talk about topics such as community service, political activism and leadership. Speakers to date have included Suzy Pukys and Jessica Hager from Southwestern’s Office of Civic Engagement; Alicia Moore, professor of education; and Helene Meyers, professor of English.

The group also is planning a service project that will involve both the high school students and the Southwestern students.

“This partnership is filling a need that no other program on our high school campus addresses,” said Laura Antoine, executive director of Georgetown Partners in Education, which runs the Project Mentor Program. “The mentoring provided by the Southwestern women leaders provides invaluable support necessary to motivate our female students who have already displayed extraordinary potential and maturity. Through the mentoring opportunities with SYWL, our students will be better prepared for their future careers by having experienced extensive opportunities in presentation preparation and public speaking, which will only continue to build their leadership skills, maturity in daily activities and excellence in academics.”