Elementary students welcomed to college experience

Courtesy of Strong Women Strong Girls | Members of SWSG have the opportunity to participate in community and campus events with youth from the Pittsburgh area.

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

April 13, 2023

Stepping on a college campus for the first time can be a powerful experience for anyone.

Duquesne’s Strong Women Strong Girls (SWSG) club will be looking to harness that excitement and spread it among a group of girls in grades 3-5 from the Pittsburgh area.

“I’m very excited. My kids are really excited,” said SWSG member Karis Pempek, who has been mentoring elementary students this year. “They’ve been looking forward to it since we told them about it, and they’ve been wanting to come to campus for so long. It’s going to be a really great opportunity for them to get to know Duquesne and ways to be a college student.”

Duquesne’s SWSG connects student mentors in young students with various Pittsburgh Public schools throughout the semester. The goal of the organization is “to empower girls to imagine a broader future through a curriculum grounded on female role models,” according to the SWSG website.

After a four-year hiatus from an in-person field trip to campus, the SWSG along with other student organizations including the American Sign Language club, various education clubs, the media department, Evergreen Club and the Duquesne Dance Team will be providing activities for the mentees.

“We’re inviting all the girls to come to Duquesne for a sort of field trip where we host events for them and they get to see and tour campus,” said field trip coordinator Abigail Messner. “We’re collaborating with different groups so they’ll get to meet some of those girls and members as well. They get to have the college experience for a day.”

Outside organizations, including Eaton engineering, a power management company, will also be providing an activity for the girls visiting Duquesne’s campus.

Duquesne’s ASL club, DUASL, was eager for the opportunity to spread awareness of sign language while providing an inspirational message to the young girls.

“The activity we planned is to show the girls affirmations in sign language, such as ‘I am strong,’ ‘I am beautiful,’ ‘I am powerful, ’ in which we can all sign together,” Duquesne ASL president Sara Tuddenham said. “We hope that the girls will take away some signs in ASL and a newfound awareness for the Deaf/HoH community, along with the knowledge that they have a voice and can make an impact.”

The girls will also have the opportunity to eat at Duquesne’s dining hall during their visit.

The goal of visiting campus is not only to get these young women familiar with a college campus but to instill the traits that the mentors have been teaching their mentees all semester.

“Some of their family members haven’t gone to college,” Messner said. “We are familiarizing them with the college aspect while instilling confidence and providing mentoring with role models.”

The event kicks off at 10 a.m with breakfast and an assembly. From there, the young visitors will break off into groups and attend various stations set up around campus for activities.

Cara Brdar, a mentor for SWSG, went to a high school that did not qualify for a Strong Women Strong Girl program. Her experiences in high school and undergrad inspired her to get involved with the program.

“I would have loved to have a strong female role model,” said Brdar. “So being able to be that for the kids that I can tell are in need of that and need a little bit extra. Being able to be that person for them can be so rewarding.”

While the theme for Saturday is a carnival, the messaging will be based around inspiring the young visitors to believe in themselves.

“We will definitely have a lot of women empowerment themes going on throughout the day,” said field trip coordinator Taylor Reitz. “For instance we’ll be saying our chant, which is ‘Strong, loud and proud.’”

Saturday’s event is a combination of a learning experience and a celebration for all the hard work both the mentors and mentees have put in this semester.

“We’re trying to show them that one of the opportunities they have is to go college if they choose to do that,” Reitz said. “This is one way to give them an opportunity to see what life is like on campus.”

Strong Women Strong Girls is always looking for more partner organizations and student mentors to contribute to their mission. Interested clubs or individuals can reach out to them on campus link.