In Pittsburgh, South Florida, and Boston, “Strong Women, Strong Girls” has a mission to use positive examples of empowered female role models to encourage young girls to become strong women themselves. In Boston, many local colleges and universities including Boston College have students who mentor elementary-school girls in the program.
The program is based on six core values: love and support; integrity and respect; discovery; balance; a diverse female community; and sparks, or the inspiration felt by all in the program.
At BC, students involved in the program visit elementary schools in the Allston-Brighton neighborhoods. At the schools, they begin with “Peaks and Valleys,” a chance for the girls to talk about the good and bad points of the week. The girls also discuss a biography of a strong woman, either from history or currently living and from both the Boston area and around the world.
They also participate in an activity designed to teach skills such as communication, good eating habits, stress management, and cultural sensitivity. At the end of the session, the girls have a journal prompt relating to the lesson, and give a cheer as a finale.
Yolanda Botti-Lodovico, A&S ’15, currently serves as the chapter coordinator. In the past, she served as community liaison after joining SWSG her freshmen year.
“We teach the girls about a lot of different things,” Botti-Lodovico said. “Loving their bodies, speaking out, communicating, just feeling comfortable with themselves … The mission is to start a movement where girls count on themselves and are confident with who they are.”
Gina Mantica, A&S ’16, is the publicity chair and community liaison. After transferring from Smith College, an all-women’s college, she found that she wanted to find an organization with strong, independent women like she found at Smith.
“Smith College is full of powerful, independent, outspoken women, and I was sad to leave that aspect of my first school behind,”
Mantica said. “So, coming to BC, I was looking for an organization that embodied some of the typical ‘Smithie’ qualities.
“At the activities fair of my sophomore—but first—year at BC, I came across the SWSG table and after speaking with past president Abbie Rogers [BC ’14], I knew that I had to be a part of the organization.”
According to Mantica, the program has allowed her a rewarding sense of empowerment, both for herself and the young students involved in the program.
“The most rewarding part of the program for me is being able to speak my mind and feel empowered as a woman at BC,” Mantica said. “Women are faced with an incredible obstacle to express themselves and feel empowered in such an environment. Thanks to SWSG, I have been able to freely express my thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a positive way and I have found a group of women who help me feel “strong.” I think SWSG is important because it teaches the next generation of women skills that will allow them to develop professionally and personally to achieve gender equality in all aspects of life.”
Botti-Lodovio says that she sees a rewarding impact on the girls in the program.
“You just realize how you become a part of their routine, and how they count on you to come every week,” she said. “They look forward to it. Also, when you see them start loving themselves for who they are, and not what they look like. When they start recognizing their own talents, it’s very rewarding.”
Students who participate in the program as mentors meet once a week to discuss the agenda, logistics, and future events. A training session is offered every fall and spring.
“Through the training and the experience mentoring girls in the Boston area, I have learned how to express myself in a positive manner and develop my professional skill set in an educational environment,” Mantica said. “I would recommend this program to all women at BC who want to feel empowered in any and every way.”