TOLEDO, Ohio, June 11, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — "The Leadership Program for Girls is the result of five years of development," co-founders Lisa Cenca of Harvard Graduate School of Education and Julie Carrier, CEO of Girls Lead Worldwide, explained to ABC 13 News in Toledo, Ohio. "The hard work has led us to this exciting national school launch," the two co-founders agreed as they reflected on their momentous journey.
It started in 2017 when Cenca was founding a new girl’s school in the Boston area. Cenca, a veteran educator and academic program designer, recognized the impact she could make. "I had this incredible chance to build a school in an extraordinary way," Cenca said. "I thought, I can do something traditional, or I can build something leading-edge that addresses the needs of girls in particular."
From research, Cenca knew that while girls were outperforming boys in high school, women were still underrepresented in significant leadership positions. After visiting over 50 schools across the nation, Cenca was determined to create a school model that would intentionally incorporate leadership development into the students’ everyday academic experiences to close that gap.
To make this vision a reality, Cenca collaborated with Julie Carrier, the "No. 1 Coach for Young Women" by Thinkers 50 and former Senior Management Consultant in leadership development for the Pentagon. The two co-founders met at a National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS) Conference in Washington, D.C. "We immediately realized our paths were meant to cross as we discussed our shared passion of making leadership development a core tenet of secondary education," Carrier explained.
In support of the model, Carrier, a fellow at the Institute of Coaching at Harvard Medical School and an advisory board member for the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up program, developed the first four-year, evidence-based leadership curriculum for high school girls taught as part of the academic school day.
Carrier’s curriculum, developed in conjunction with professors at Harvard, West Point, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, The Center on Leadership and Ethics at Duke, and other leading experts, is rooted in applied neuroscience. Carrier explains, "In the program, girls do more than just learn about leadership, they actively engage in leading themselves, leading others, and leading change."
As the two experts implemented Cenca’s model, they recognized its impact on students in the pilot program. The preliminary data showed increased confidence levels and statistically significant increases in growth mindset. In addition, many foundations and private donors sponsored their work for girls. "The outcomes were phenomenal on so many levels," reflects Cenca.
Inspired by the program’s success, Cenca was invited to Harvard Graduate School of Education to connect with entrepreneurial visionaries in order to scale the program for greater impact. Harvard’s Venture Program selected the Leadership Program for Girls in recognition of its innovation in education.
Carrier and Cenca explained that "The Leadership Program for Girls has the unique ability to infuse an entire school culture with leadership learning, developing confidence, resilience, and growth mindset. That’s something that most schools want to do but don’t know how to do. Our Program is an actionable model that brings equitable, intentional, and evidence-based leadership development as part of the school day."
Cenca, who received Harvard’s 2021 Phyllis Strimling Award for Advancing Women, said, "To bring this life-changing program to girls across the nation and even the world, we needed a stellar school aligned with our mission, to lead the way and change the trajectory of girls’ lives to positively impact the world. Carrier added, "We have selected St. Ursula Academy in Toledo, Ohio, as our inaugural school because of their long-standing dedication to leadership."
St. Ursula Academy President, Mary Werner, could not contain her excitement over the selection. "We are honored to have been chosen as the first National Girls’ Leadership School in the country. The distinction recognizes our commitment to intentional leadership development for every young woman," Werner explained. St. Ursula Academy Principal Nichole Flores further explained, "This programming is unlike anything in the country. Our girls will build skills and have the opportunity to practice those skills in hands-on projects that positively impact the world. Having The Leadership Program for Girls at SUA is preparing our students for a changing world."
Cenca and Carrier are currently evaluating leading-edge schools on their waitlist. In support of their global vision, they are also seeking funding partners interested in bringing this program to underserved girls around the world.
SOURCE The Leadership Program for Girls