Summer of Girls’ Leadership: Here, There, and Everywhere

Over the last few decades, women around the world have made significant gains in leadership. Despite these gains, pay equity, low representation of women in top leadership positions, and gender discrimination in the workplace remain prominent issues. Research has shown there are benefits of leadership education for young women. Experiential learning opportunities can help build confidence and self-esteem in girls as well as address gender inequality worldwide.

This summer, NCGS and its member schools proudly supported multiple experiential learning initiatives promoting girls’ leadership. Trips to the Grand Canyon, Costa Rica, and Rwanda provided experiences for students and faculty from NCGS member schools to connect with girls’ school leaders worldwide, grow as individuals, and make an impact in their communities.

NCGS collaborated with strategic partner Grand Classroom, a professional travel company specializing in outdoor educational trips for high schoolers, to provide a leadership retreat for NCGS member school students in the Grand Canyon. In awe-inspiring surroundings, students from Marlborough School and Academy of Notre Dame de Namur reflected on their own leadership styles, practiced effective communications skills, built self-esteem, and fostered team unity. Whether hiking the challenging South Kaibab trail or encouraging one another during a rock climbing exercise, participants came away with valuable skills they can take back to their schools. As one participant stated, “We talked a lot about different styles of leadership, which helped me realize that all kinds of people—including myself—can be leaders, and each type of leader is valuable in a group.”

NCGS also partnered this summer with CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) to provide a three-week STEM learning experience in Costa Rica. Students and faculty from Agnes Irwin School, Archer School, Castilleja School, and Ethel Walker School learned about the biodiversity of Costa Rica, the factors that threaten it, and the latest efforts to counter those threats. Participants also learned about the critical role female leaders in Costa Rica play in the economy and sustainability initiatives through a variety of hands-on activities, such as visiting a coffee farm in Mont Verde and exploring the mangroves on Isla Chara. Students and faculty blogged about their experiences through the duration of the program. “Everywhere we go our instructors help us become a part of the learning process. Costa Rica is our classroom,” described one faculty member about the experiential nature of the trip.

In addition to these two NCGS-sponsored trips, representatives from five NCGS member schools (Chatham Hall, Ethel Walker School, Gashora Girls Academy, Madeira School, and St. Timothy’s School) participated in the first Women in Science (WiSci) STEAM Camp at NCGS member school Gashora Girls Academy in Rwanda. Sponsored by NCGS strategic partner Girl Up along with several other organizations, this cultural exchange brought together 120 girls from the U.S. and eight African countries. The dynamic curriculum was divided into three week-long sessions on Computer Science; Robotics; and Design, Arts, and Culture. Students had the opportunity to blog about their experiences for The Huffington Post, and their reflections demonstrate the powerful impact of experiential learning and the common bonds that girls’ schools can have on the development of female leaders:

“What an incredible opportunity it is to attend this camp in its inaugural year and share my passion and talent for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Art and Design (STEAM) with like-minded girls from Africa and create possibilities to improve girls’ lives, promote gender equality and entrepreneurship, be a global leader, and make a difference!” — Ciara, Madeira School

“It is a huge opportunity for us to develop an infallible set of skills that will one day make us strong future leaders, confident STEAM fields’ practitioners and, assuredly, mentors to other young girls in our communities, upon our return to our home countries.” — Consolee, Gashora Girls Academy

NCGS believes when girls have the opportunity to participate in cross-cultural leadership programs, they will come away with the skills and desire to make a powerful impact in their communities. Our girls’ schools foster and empower these young women to become confident, effective leaders worldwide.


Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

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