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One America - Discovery: A Leadership Program for Girls and Women

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One America

Program: Discovery: A Leadership Program for Girls and Women, New York, NY
Contact(s): Nettie Wolfe, Program Coordinator: (212) 509-2000
Purpose: To increase girls' and women's sense of leadership ability through practice in identifying and formulating issues, using persuasive communication and organizing for action

Background Program Operations Outcomes


The development of Discovery: A Leadership Program for Girls and Women began when Lilly Endowment Inc., facilitated conversations between staff at the Minneapolis YWCA and national staff at Girls Inc., two organizations that focus on girls, women and leadership. A group of Asian and Latino women leaders in Minneapolis were especially worried that they were not preparing the next generation of female leaders. Discovery was designed to create some opportunities for girls and women of diverse ethnic backgrounds to reclaim their heritage as leaders and to learn about leadership through community action. The final version of the curriculum guide, describing the process of establishing Discovery within every chapter of Girls Inc., was published and distributed to Girls Inc., affiliates in 1997. (The majority of the participants in Girls Inc., are girls of color: 41% black, 13% Hispanic American or Latina, 3% Asian American and 1% American Indian.)

Program Operations

In Discovery, girls and women come together as partners to celebrate their heritage of leadership, discover the leaders within themselves, and practice the skills of leadership through community action. A group of about 12 girls and five to seven community women meet together in a 13-week program of two-hour weekly sessions. The program begins with an orientation and retreat, where both the women and girls meet in an isolated setting to discuss the nature of leadership. The retreat is capped-off with the creation of a leadership quilt, with each participant making a square that symbolizes her idea of leadership. During the weekly sessions, the girls and women explore together the concept of leadership and become comfortable with one another, their role in leadership and their responsibility for taking action. The program takes place in a setting rich with books, posters, music, stories and games to celebrate girls and women as leaders. Participants are introduced to women leaders such as Sojourner Truth, Mae Jemison, Maya Lin, Dolores Huerta and Susan B. Anthony. The final project in the program is the selection by each girl of a community action project that reaffirms the girls' sense of leadership and ability to act within the community for change.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

More than 600 girls have put leadership into practice through designing and implementing community action projects created in collaboration with women partners from the community. The participants in the Discovery program also created Holding Our Own, a handbook for girls and women exploring leadership. It contains pictures, poems, biographies of women leaders and stories of girls and women involved in the Discovery program.

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