Liza Zulick | Staff Writer
Kicking off the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, Duquesne University’s chapter of Strong Women Strong Girls (SWSG) started its mentoring program in 11 different schools in the Pittsburgh area this October.
Duquesne students volunteer every week and attend mentoring sessions with girls in grades third through fifth to teach them what it is like to grow up as a strong woman, and to be proud of the women they are becoming.
Founded in 2000 by Lindsay Hyde, a student at Harvard University, SWSG has encouraged hundreds of young girls to become the brave, independent girls they strive to be. With guidance from their mentors, they learn different skills to volunteer with their community and learn about historically strong women that have given women the rights they have today.
SWSG strives to give young girls the confidence and self-esteem they need to lift themselves and their peers to their highest potential.
“Through this program we strive to encourage our young girls to become the best versions of themselves and achieve all of their dreams,” said Rachael Reiner, one of Duquesne’s SWSG chapter directors. “We share stories of our lives, talk about strong women in history and current society and discuss strong ways to handle various situations.”
Duquesne’s chapter has grown from five members, also called mentors, to 113 members. Mentors are assigned to a new elementary school every semester, which gives them and the young girls the opportunity to meet and work with as many strong girls as possible.
The organization strives to make sure all girls know their worth, and believes it is important to start at a young age to assure they will always know they are strong and powerful. In fact, they say a chant at every meeting, “I am strong, I am proud and I’m not afraid to shout it out loud!”
“We have recently changed our weekly mentoring session to focus not only on strong women in history, but the world of STEAM,” Samantha Border, another one of Duquesne’s SWSG chapter directors, said. “In previous years, we showed our mentees how to embrace the real world and tackle real world situations. Now, we are showing them what their future could be like and the various possibilities.”
SWSG coordinates many events each semester for the girls and mentors to participate in outside of the classroom. The biggest event is planned for the spring semester, where the young girls involved in the program take a field trip for the day to Duquesne and see how their mentors live at college. Fun activities are arranged for them for the entire day.
“I think it is important to mentor these young girls because some of them do not have role models at home,” said McKenna Then, junior biochemistry major and SWSG mentor. “Some had never heard of college until we came and talked about it. We provide a source of support and encouragement for these strong girls to grow into strong women.”
On Oct. 22, SWSG will host a Chipotle Night in Market Square from 5 to 9 p.m., where profits benefit Duquesne’s chapter of SWSG. Participating customers must share the flyer at check out to support the non-profit organization of helping young girls around the Pittsburgh area.