ilsr Leadership Camp Highlighted in Metrowest Daily News

This article originally appeared in the Metrowest Daily News on July 8, 2007.

Middle schoolers get dose of leadership

By John Hilliard/Daily News staff

Framingham - More than two dozen girls from the town's middle schools will participate in a three-week program later this month to help build their leadership skills, plus promote college and careers for their futures.

"Middle school in general is the time kids are finding themselves," said Dawn Mendelsohn, director of community resource development with the Framingham schools. A "leadership group for girls is a powerful (opportunity) for them."

The program, funded by a 21st Century Schools grant, allows 25 girls to attend the Center for Inclusive Leadership and Social Responsibility at Pine Manor College. This is the second year for the effort - which runs from July 9 to July 27 - and expands on a half-day program which ran last summer.

"We did it last year, and the girls just loved it," said Mendelsohn.

According to a study conducted by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the use of academic programs during the summer can help prevent "learning loss" during the months students are out of school - especially for lower-income students.

Mendelsohn said the girls who had the best attendance record for an after school program that offered academic enrichment, MCAS help and other services were invited to attend.

Pine Manor's program is a three-week, all-day effort which combines community service, visits to Boston-based women-owned businesses and the State House, plus confidence building and readying girls for college, she said.

Summer mainstays like swimming and canoeing will also be included, and the six counselors and staff also speak Portuguese and English for the mixed group of girls.

Whitney Retallic, who oversees the Pine Manor program, said the school has been working with the region's middle school, high school and college-age women students for more than a decade to prepare them for future leadership roles and careers. Pine Manor is an all-women college and part of the program is intended to let girls work together in a supportive environment, she said.

"We believe in an environment where girls can be comfortable with each other," she said.

Pine Manor has offered half-day and weekend retreats for a few years for Framingham students, and the three-week leadership program was a natural extension of that cooperation, she said.

"We saw a huge shift in the girls last year," said Retallic. "Hopefully, we'll see one in the girls this year."

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