Girls To Women: Transforming Young Girls into Powerful Leaders of Change

Activities Beyond the Classroom strives to provide equitable opportunities for all Cincinnati Public School students.  Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year CPS launched a district-wide initiative to help cultivate young girls into strong, respected, and compassionate leaders—transforming school-aged girls into agents of change now and well into the future!  The Girls To Women Leadership Collaborative (“Girls To Women”) focuses on developing solutions for issues specific to the maturation of girls into women. 

About Girls To Women

Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard with Girls To Women Peer Leaders at Dater High School.

The Girls To Women Leadership Collaborative began as a small gathering with only five girls in attendance.  In just two years it has grown to include over 200 school-aged girls throughout the district. The program consist of female students in grades 5 through 12 at twenty Cincinnati Public Schools.  CPS is hoping to expand the group’s reach by including girls as young as grade 4 by the 2020-2021 school year (Source: CPS Website). 

Student leaders and facilitators at each school are responsible for defining their own campaigns for change.  Together the girls work collaboratively to address issues that matter most to them.  Throughout the school year the girls meet weekly with their facilitator.  During these sessions, the girls work on assignments and activities that reinforce the Girls To Women curriculum created by one of their many community partners, The Sister Accord.  The curriculum for the district-wide initiative includes leadership development, anti-bullying, and conflict resolution. 

In addition to these weekly sessions, the girls are introduced to career pathways in STEM through a collaboration with The Christ Hospital.  Once per month the girls attend mentoring sessions hosted by professional women who consist of a pool of community partners and local community organization leaders.

Onward and Upward

Each school year, new student recruits are identified by peer leaders as well as the school’s facilitator. Girls are then invited to join the Girls To Women program, with the intention to recruit young ladies from all academic achievement levels. Shelly Conrad, Program Director of Girls To Women, explains the intent behind this recruiting practice.  “Even girls that are not at the top of the class need to be influenced and encouraged to become better leaders, obtain better grades and improve their self-confidence,” stated Conrad. 

Since its inception in 2016, the students involved in Girls To Women participate in annual leadership summits each fall.  There are two separate summits, one for elementary school-aged girls and one for high school-aged girls.  During these summits, the girls participate in group mentoring sessions focused on four core topics designed to enhance their leadership skills. 

Topics covered at Annual Leadership Summit include:

  • Self Esteem/Self Confidence
  • Self Affirmation
  • Stress Management

The Mentoring Experience

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Professional women help the young ladies by leading group mentoring sessions.

Mentors, like Kelly Dehan, meet with the young ladies and talk with them in a group setting.  The mentors facilitate role playing activities and help the young ladies work through issues in an effort to reinforce a positive self-image and help the girls reach their fullest potential.  Kelly Dehan, a member of the Women of Tocqueville (a volunteer impact group of philanthropic, community-minded women), finds the experience mutually rewarding.  “Working with the girls allows me to both give and receive,” said Dehan, “I believe we [the mentors] get more out of it than we give. Just seeing the smiles on their faces and being able to give a few nuggets learned of our experience makes the time invested very worthwhile!” 

Girls To Women is currently looking to expand its reach by recruiting new female volunteers to mentor the girls in the program.  Mentors meet with the girls and discuss relevant topics for about 90 minutes per month. “Girls To Women volunteers can expect great things!” added Kelly Dehan.  If you are interested in volunteering, apply by clicking here. If you have questions about mentoring contact Shelly Conrad at