By Kailey Love | The Duquesne Duke
The women of the organization Strong Women Strong Girls are exactly what their name suggests; they are strong, they are proud and they are not afraid to shout it out loud – according to the cheer they do at the end of each mentoring session with over 300 young girls throughout Pittsburgh every week.
Strong Women Strong Girls is a self-funded group dedicated to helping young girls grow into strong women by teaching them about self confidence, strength and leadership for a bright future, according to the group’s website. Duquesne’s chapter has more than 100 mentors that go to ten different sites every week and are responsible for becoming role models for girls between the ages of eight and 12, according to chapter co-directors Maggie Ballantyne and Kaiti Beauchamp.
Founded in Boston by Lindsay Hyde, a freshman at Harvard University, Strong Women Strong Girls began as a small student organization in 2000 and has since expanded into a nonprofit that can be found at colleges across the country, the website says. Strong Women Strong Girls came to Pittsburgh in 2006 and now has chapters at Duquesne, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Robert Morris University, Point Park University and Carlow University.
“This group is incredibly important to the girls we serve, but also to the women who are serving as mentors,” Ballantyne said. “We are teaching the girls to be strong leaders and also becoming strong leaders ourselves.
“This organization strives to create a cycle of empowerment, so we are mentoring those we hope will also want to mentor others one day.”
SWSG’s goal is to reach out to girls in undeserved communities between the third and fifth grade, which is when their self esteem becomes vulnerable, according to Beauchamp. This is what inspired the organization’s model – to reach out to young girls and teach them that what is on the inside is much more important than what is on the outside, at a time when they are very susceptible to the pressures placed upon them, such as the growing importance of body image, according to research done by The Guardian.
Strong Women Strong Girls not only aims to provide role models for these young girls, but also creates lessons centered around other strong women in history to further inspire them to be independent, confident leaders.
While mentors teach young girls important lessons and create bonds with them, they are also learning lessons and creating memories for themselves, Ballantyne said.
Last semester, SWSG was awarded the “Pens4Purpose” prize totalling $1,000 dollars given by the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. The money went towards providing materials and snacks for weekly mentoring sessions, as well as to help fund field trips. One of these field trips is a visit to Duquesne to inspire them to strive towards higher education, according to Beauchamp.
“The field trips are so important, and I really love when one of my girls says with such determination, ‘I’m gonna go to Duquesne one day,’” Beauchamp said.