It was nearly 100 years ago when women’s rights activist Alice Paul helped lead the push for the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving women across the country the right to vote.
Today, at Paulsdale, the home where Paul was born in 1885, young women are developing into the next generation of trailblazers. The Alice Paul Institute’s leadership programs for teenage girls are dedicated to grooming the next group of female leaders.
Last week, the institute held its annual, weeklong Alice Paul Professional Leadership Institute. Ten teenage girls who range from rising high school freshmen to rising seniors spent a week learning about everything from choosing a career and picking a college to how to organize their finances and set them up for future success.
Lucy Beard, executive director of the Alice Paul Institute, described last week’s leadership institute as a way to give high school girls the chance to view the many opportunities for college and career success and to encourage them to chase after their goals.
“I want them to … walk away with some sense of the opportunities ahead and their own obligation to keep focused on those opportunities,” Beard said.
The leadership institute includes a wide range of workshops and field trips. Each day, the girls started with a series of activities. These activities included numerous guest speakers, including a high school guidance counselor who talked about navigating life in high school, and a financial advisor who spoke on the importance of proper budgeting and money management.
The afternoons included field trips to several area colleges, including Rider University and Rutgers University in Camden. The group also visited workplaces such as the Burlington County Courthouse.
At the end of the week, a group of women professionals from all different fields and backgrounds visited Paulsdale to network with the girls and talk about their own journeys in life.
“They meet all of the women as a group,” Beard said of the group’s meeting with mentors. “Later, the women will sit on the porch separately and the girls will circulate and talk to all of the women one-on-one.”
Beard described the institute as a big step forward for many of the participants. Most of this year’s 10 students are entering high school as freshmen in the fall and got their first taste of activities such as visiting colleges. Beard said the staff at the institute saw the girls open up as the week went on.
“What we see during the course of the week is their eyes opening,” Beard said. “And they don’t know each other. They all come from different groups. They are shy, but they begin coming out.”
The leadership program is just one way the Alice Paul Institute is encouraging young women to step up in their community. Each year, the institute runs a Girls Leadership Council for high school students. The council meets once a month to discuss current issues women and girls face both in the country and the world. The council also participates annually in the International Day of the Girl event at the United Nations in New York and serves as the host for the Alice Paul Equality Awards each year.
“We’re giving them the skillset and knowledge base that really builds girls’ confidence and character and awareness,” Beard said of the council.
Beard said about half of the girls who participate in the summer leadership institute go on to register for the Girls Leadership Council. She described the council as an extension of the work Paul was doing herself at the same house more than 100 years ago.
“The power of place, we found, cannot be underestimated,” Beard said, adding the Girls Leadership Council takes the message of Alice Paul to heart. “They feel a sense of ownership to her and her story whenever they come here.”
The Alice Paul Institute is accepting applications for its Girls Leadership Council for the 2019-20 school year. Registration is scheduled for Sunday, July 28 through Saturday, Aug. 10. For more information on the program or to sign up, visit www.alicepaul.org/programs/glc.