Strong Women Strong Girls

By Madison Arnette-10th Grade, Franklin Regional High School

An organization called Strong Women Strong Girls (SWSG) had its award ceremony on Friday, August 19, 2016. The purpose of the event is to enhance women and girls and showcase their great work. SWSG handed out four awards in four different categories – elementary/middle school, college, young professional, and professional.

The elementary/middle school award went to 3rd grader Emma Lewis who is attending Sto-Rox elementary school. Emma says her goals are to achieve good grades. She participated in a local Food Bank because she “doesn’t believe anyone should go hungry.” The SWSG organization taught Emma how to be strong and positive.

The college award went to Meghan Fedor, a senior at Duquesne University. Meghan is currently a mentor and said she gained leadership experience through SWSG. The best part about the organization for Meghan is the “level of excitement.”

The young professional award went to Josie Badger. Josie uses a power wheelchair, disability dog, and a ventilator to help her breathe due to a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Josie is the campaign manager of #IWantToWork. She went to a National Youth Leadership conference and saw other people with disabilities and noticed that they embraced their disabilities instead of shying away from them. Ever since the conference, Josie has wanted to find ways to make people stronger and SWSG gave her that opportunity. In her acceptance speech Josie said, “the best thing a leader can do is make other leaders” and she lives by this motto.

The professional award went to Tyian Battle, founder of ACH Clear Pathways. Tyian lost her 7-year-old son, Amon Cashmere Harris, due to an unknown  heart condition. Her son loved Michael Jackson so much that, when he passed, Tyian founded ACH Clear Pathways, a nonprofit organization based on visual arts. The organization “serves children and families who have not had the opportunity to thrive in arts.”

The event was further highlighted by a keynote address by Gilda Jackson. She was the first African-American female colonel in the United States Marine Corps and is currently President and General Manager of Lockheed Martin AeroParts, Inc. Lockheed Martin is a highly diversified global enterprise principally engaged in the conception, research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced-technology products and services. Gilda noted that, as a child, she and her brothers and their dad would play a game they called “Discovery.” In that game they would take household items and take them apart to make something new. In her speech she said, “there’s nothing wrong with being a smart girl.” She explained that she was once told that a girl has to be a “perfect 10” physically, but to her a perfect 10 is having honor, courage, and commitment.

SWSG is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2000 by Lindsay Hyde in Miami, Florida. SWSG takes place after school during the fall.  The organization made its way to Boston in 2004 and Pittsburgh in 2006. The purpose of the organization is to help girls become stronger mentally and empower them. They achieve this goal by having a female role model who is the girls’ mentor. The mentors guide the girls to build their confidence, gain strong leadership skills, and show them career opportunities. Each mentor meets with 10-12 girls after school.

This year the Pittsburgh location had 635 girls and 180 mentors and is also celebrating its 10th anniversary. The Pittsburgh location has chapters at Carnegie Mellon University, Robert Morris University, Point Park University, Carlow University and Duquesne University. The Executive Director of the Pittsburgh location is Sabrina Saunders. Sabrina joined the organization in 2007 and became the Executive Director in 2014 as a suggestion by her mentor. She joined the organization because she “always had the interest of impacting lives of young people.” The goals for the 2016-2017 school year are to expand to impact the lives of more girls. Sabrina said that the organization “has given us the opportunity to put girls on a broader platform.”

The awards ceremony was enjoyable and it was exciting to see women and girls awarded for their leadership and their accomplishments. The best part was talking to the mentors and witnessing what the organization has done for them. I can see their confidence and how outspoken they are. SWSG has done an outstanding job on helping girls of all ages gain confidence.

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Madison Arnette Is a tenth grader at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, PA. She has interviewed students at her schools homecoming bonfire that happens every year before homecoming and the homecoming football game. Aside from interviewing people, she also likes photography.

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