Updated: November 12 - View the photo gallery.
In what has become a dynamic yearly tradition at Mount Holyoke, a select group of 39 high school juniors from across the country will be on campus from September 27 to 30 for Take the Lead, an intensive four-day conference focusing on leadership and social change. The program, now in its eighth year, has inspired and equipped scores of young women to design and implement projects that address a wide range of social and political issues. Several of its alumnae have received national media attention for their work.
"This is a program that shows young women that they are capable of achieving goals well beyond what they have imagined," said program director and founder Patricia VandenBerg, the College's executive director of communications and strategic initiatives. "Too often, even the most successful girls and women in our society feel that they do not deserve their success. Take the Lead has helped its participants appreciate the power they have and put it to use."
The 39 students, who come from 16 states and Canada, were chosen on the basis of their potential for leadership and commitment to making a difference, as demonstrated by their academic, extracurricular, and community involvement.
Each Take the Lead participant will be paired with a Mount Holyoke student mentor who has been trained at the College's Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts. The program of lectures, workshops, brainstorming, and mentoring helps each participant develop a detailed plan to effect positive change in her school, community, or the world at large. Mentors keep in touch with their participants after the conference, offering advice and encouragement.
Take the Lead guest speakers this year include Sarah Curran Barrett, Mount Holyoke's periodicals and Web news editor; Rene Davis, Mount Holyoke's director of residential life; Jane Fleishman, training and organizational consultant; Angela Johnson, the new director of annual funds and special gifts for Mount Holyoke; Shaina Muñoz, a Take the Lead alumna who is starting her first year at Mount Holyoke; Lydia Omolola Okutoro '98, published poet and writer; and Becky Wai-Ling Packard, associate professor of psychology and education at Mount Holyoke. A special guest this year is Debra Martin Chase '77, a Hollywood producer of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Cheetah Girls, and winner of both the Emmy and Peabody awards for Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.
This year's graduation speaker will be Emilie Kimball, a Take the Lead alumna who is in her first year at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. The program spurred her to raise money for Women in Progress, a Ghanaian cooperative that helps women start their own businesses. Among other endeavors, she organized a fundraiser for the cooperative, sponsored by the ambassador of Ghana and held at the Ghanaian embassy in Washington. The event featured Ghanaian entertainment and food as well as the sale of spring and summer apparel made by members of Women in Progress. Kimball addressed the 300-member audience and was featured on local television news programs. She received an official citation for her efforts from her state delegate and warm thanks from the Ghanaian ambassador.