BOLD women: Sophomores win grant to expand girls empowerment program
Kate Stockbridge ’19 should have been on top of the world.
It was 2014, and Stockbridge was attending the HERlead Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. She was one of 50 high school girls selected from thousands of applicants to meet with and learn from top women leaders and activists from all over the world.
Yet she couldn’t shake a nagging feeling of inadequacy.
“I spent the entire conference feeling as though there had been some sort of mistake,” she remembers. “I believed the other fellows had accomplished so much more than I had. I felt like an imposter.”
But as she got to know the other teens, she was surprised to learn that almost all of them felt the same way.
“I believe these feelings of inadequacy are a major factor in why so few women seek leadership positions,” Stockbridge said.
The experience led her to found BOLD, an after school program that uses media literacy education and mentorship to empower middle school girls. Launched in 2014 at Pierce Middle School in Milton, Massachusetts, the program was expanded in 2016 to New London’s Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School and three other Massachusetts schools with the help of two of Stockbridge’s classmates, Allie Girouard ’19 and Sarah Potter ’19.
Now, Stockbridge, Girouard and Potter have won a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant to expand the program across Massachusetts.
The vision of philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis, Projects for Peace challenges college students to create and test their own ideas for spreading peace across the world. Female empowerment is critical for peace, Stockbridge says.
“Encouraging girls to feel confident in their skin is a revolutionary act, one that undermines the fundamental ‘truth’ that every girl is taught by society and the media from the day she is born: No matter what she does, no matter how hard she tries, she will never be ‘enough,’” she said. “We aim to create a generation of bold, passionate young people who will be ready to step forward and solve the world’s problems.”
Stockbridge, a government and American studies double major and scholar in the College’s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy; Girourad, a sociology and American studies double major and Holleran Center scholar; and Potter, an art history and anthropology double major, will spend the summer designing and implementing a curriculum for high school-aged BOLD mentors. The training program will empower the high school girls to start BOLD chapters in their local middle schools and give them the skills and confidence they need to become community leaders.
The goal is to teach the high school students how to reach younger girls before their self-confidence plummets.
“While girls are exposed to negative images in the media from a very young age, middle school is when I really began to feel less capable as well as insecure about my own body and intelligence,” Potter said.
Girouard, who got involved with BOLD after meeting Stockbridge in a Social Innovation first-year seminar at Conn, said she wants as many girls as possible to be able to participate.
“BOLD provides a place to develop your voice despite outside pressures and stereotypes,” she said. “So many girls, including my three younger sisters, desperately need this program to help them recognize the importance and power of their voices.”