This morning, a high school senior at The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem explained why her Government teacher was popular among her classmates: “She let’s you have a voice, and that’s the best.” The students in this particular class, she explained, decided which issues they wanted to focus on over the course of the semester. I peeked my head into a dimly-lit classroom full of students watching a news report on the politics of abortion.
The Young Women’s Leadership Network was founded by Anne Rubenstein Tisch, a former NBC News Correspondent, who, after covering dozens of education stories and reading a 1992 AAUW report on “ How Schools Shortchange Girls,” decided to start an all-girls public school in a low-income community in New York City. Her goal: to develop an educational model built on public-private partnerships that would break the poverty cycle, reduce rates of teenage pregnancy, and forge a new path to college. With a robust college guidance program called the CollegeBound Initiative, TYWLS of East Harlem has, for the past eleven years, helped 100% of its graduating students get accepted to college, 82% of whom are the first in their families to attend college. To put this phenomenal success into perspective, nationwide, only 24% of low-income students attend college, with only 8% earning a degree. Beyond supporting students during the application process, YWLN offers significant financial aid resources and facilitates networking opportunities, exposing students to successful professional women working in New York City.
So, why are we excited about these schools? Our film focuses on girls' education in an international context, but compelling stories about the power of girls' education also exist right here in our own city. While the challenges facing girls around the world – from Ethiopia to East Harlem – are diverse, the impact an educated girl can have on her community is significant no matter where you go.
At the end of this morning’s visit, I asked two students (one of whom was sporting a Wheaton sweatshirt, having just been accepted to the college today) what they wanted to do when they graduated from college. One of them explained that she had hopes of starting a non-profit performing arts center in her neighborhood, to give young girls an opportunity to pursue activities in the arts, a luxury she missed out on growing up. Her classmate replied that she would like to return to YWLS of East Harlem to teach English. After experiencing an inspiring educational environment, they are both committed to paying it forward.
If you’re inspired by The Young Women’s Leadership Network, there are a number of ways to volunteer and become a role model today!