Boston GLOW is a breeding ground for the modern day superwoman. GLOW fosters opportunities for women of all ages to become empowered community leaders and active world citizens.

Real Girl Leaders: Akili Sundai

Every Wednesday here at Boston GLOW we highlight a young woman making an impact in her own community as part of our #RealGirlLeaders series.  We truly encourage you to share, comment and spread the word that the young women in our communities are doing big things, creating change and letting their voices be heard.

Today is no different.  Today we bring you a #RealGirlLeader, Akili Sundai.  

Akili is from Cambridge, MA and is a junior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.  In 2014, Akili was selected as an #IGNITEChange Finalist for her community change project proposal to encourage young women in STEM fields to connect.  In 2014 and 2015 Akili was selected as a GAPP Girl Leader as part of the Girls About Political Participation (GAPP) program.  Last October, Akili, had the opportunity to meet with and discuss political issues with Senator Joan Lovely of Salem, MA.  

We had the opportunity to learn more about Ms. Sundai when we asked her a few questions.



Boston GLOW: Tell us about a woman who inspires you:

Akili: My mom inspires me the most, because growing up she lived in a very poor environment, but she has le

Boston GLOW: Who are your political inspirations?arned how to solidify herself and make the most of what she has. My mom always tells me that I need to take advantage of all the different resources and opportunities available to me, and strive to do my best because I do not only represent my myself, but my family as well. Additionally, my mom pushes herself everyday to do the best she can, even though there are many people that may try to stop her from succeeding. In my eyes, I find this very motivating because you cannot let anyone stop you from accomplishing something you so work hard for.

Akili: Fadumo Dayib is very inspirational, primarily because she is aiming to run for president in Somalia- a country where they dismiss women's rights. I find it empowering how she is at Harvard studying so she can return and run for president.

Boston GLOW: What does it mean to be an active citizen?

Akili: In my opinion, a citizen means to connected and engaged in your surrounding community, and to show an effort to improve or point out the flaws in the community.

Boston GLOW: What are your career goals?

Akili: I wish to work at a CDC lab, to help research and find cures for diseases in the future. 


Akili Sundai and the 2014 Girls About Political Participation Elected Officials and GAPP Girl Leaders Participants at the Massachusetts State House.

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Real Girl Leaders: Kailana Harriott

We love Wednesdays!  Why? Because it's #RealGirlLeader Day!  We love to share profiles of young women in our community making a change, following their dreams, and being true active leaders.  Everyday our #RealGirlLeaders prove that you don't have to wait until you're an adult to make an impact!  

Today we highlight Kailana Harriott.  Kailana is a 2015 Participant in the Girls About Political Participation program that allows high school aged young women to connect with female elected officials.  Earlier this year, Kailana was able to demonstrate her commitment to creating opportunities for her peers by meeting with Representative Jennifer Benson.  

Kailana is from Roxbury and is a Junior at Elizabeth Seton Academy in Dorchester.


Here's what Kailana has to say!

Boston GLOW: Tell us about a woman who inspires you:

The woman that inspires me would have to be myself in the future. There is a certain vision that I have for myself and what I would like to see myself doing in the future. This inspires me to make better choices so that one day that vis


ion may become my own reality.

Her political inspirations are:

A woman that inspires me would have to be Hillary Clinton because she has done so much for our government and not let herself be cast in the shadow of her husband along with not feeding into the gender roles that are ever present in our society.

The questions she would like to understand are:

1)Do you feel as though you are able to have a balance between both your personal life and your political career?

2) Have you been a witness to any gender roles in your
profession or position?

3) what women inspired you to take a profession in politics?

After meeting with Representative Benson, Kailana is eager to explore more chances to understand the political process and looks forward to speaking at the State House soon.  

Do you have questions for Kailana? We'd love to hear your thoughts!


Is there a young woman in your community making a difference? We'd love to highlight her in future #RealGirlLeaders posts.  Email for details.


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Real Girl Leaders: Anna Nicole Bosco

Today we continue our #RealGirlLeaders Wednesday series.  This fall, 8 passionate and talented young women from the Greater Boston area participated in Boston GLOW's 2nd Annual Girls About Political Participation (GAPP) program.  These high school aged female leaders worked on a cross-generational leadership project aimed at decreasing the gender gap in women's political leadership.


The GAPP Girl Leaders each met with a female elected official, shared stories and discussed the importance of women in political representation.  Today we highlight Anna Nicole Bosco, a Boston GLOW #RealGirlLeader and participant in the GAPP Program.

Anna Nicole Bosco (Nikki) is from Wakefield and is a senior at Wakefield High School.  Last September she met with a
delegation of female leaders from Thailand and in October spent the day with female elected officials in the Massachusetts State House. In her spare time she is a youth leader for a state-wide anti-s
moking coalition.

We asked Nikki a few questions:

Boston GLOW: Who do you see as an inspirational woman?

Nikki Bosco: 

A woman that really inspires me today is the actress Laverne Cox. She has made amazing progress in the areas of transgender and race awareness by using social media and her Hollywood platform to share her experience and shed some light on the issues often ignored by the media. She is a truly amazing and intelligent woman who focuses on educating people and curing misconceptions. She always astute, but never rude in her comments, unlike many celebrities online. Unfortunately, there are some people in America not quite ready for a powerful transwoman of color, but she handles inappropriate comments with grace and wit.

Boston GLOW: What does it mean to be a citizen?

Nikki Bosco:

Being a citizen means much more than being a resident to me. Being a citizen means you understand and exercise your civic duty by being involved in community politics, activism, and service. Many people think they are entitled to a government that will address their every need without having to vote or be active in voicing their opinions in any way. This is simply untrue. We are lucky to live in a country that protects our rights to free speech and ensures the individual influence on the community, so it is simply negligent to not fulfill one's constitutional responsibilities.

Boston GLOW: What  questions would you ask a female elected official?

Nikki Bosco: 

What can average citizens do to prevent government corruption and prejudicial favoritism?

What resources should citizens rely on to receive the most informative, unbiased information on our government?

Boston GLOW: Who are your favorite female political leaders:

Wendy Davis and Elizabeth Warren really inspire me because they truly fight for minority and women's rights in a less-than-progressive Congress. I was so excited that I was able to meet Senator Warren this past summer as part of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids' annual Youth Action Summit in Washington DC.

We are proud to have Nikki serve as a 2015 GAPP Girl Leader and represent the #RealGirlLeaders of Boston.  Do you know any #RealGirlLeaders making a difference? We'd love to highlight them - email for detail. 


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Real Girl Leaders: Isho Haji

Today we continue our #RealGirlLeaders Wednesday series.  This fall, 8 passionate and talented young women from the Greater Boston area participated in Boston GLOW's 2nd Annual Girls About Political Participation (GAPP) program.  These high school aged female leaders worked on a cross-generational leadership project aimed at decreasing the gender gap in women's political leadership.

The GAPP Girl Leaders each met with a female elected official, shared stories and discussed the importance of women in political representation.  Today we highlight Isho Haji, a Boston GLOW #RealGirlLeader and participant in the GAPP Program.

Isho Haji is from Dorchester and is a senior at the John D. O'Bryant School.  Last September she met with a delegation of female leaders from Thailand and had the opportunity to interview with Representative Cory Atkins of Concord, MA.

We asked Isho a few questions:



Boston GLOW: Who do you see as an inspirational woman?

Isho Haji: 

A women who inspires me is Helen Keller, an author, political activist and lecturer. She is also deaf and blind. Throughout her life time she accomplished so much despite her disability. I am partially blind often times people assume that I cannot do much, but thanks to her I felt that I shouldn't cross off my dreams of being in the health field just because of my disability.

Boston GLOW: What does it mean to be a citizen?

Isho Haji: Being a citizen means that I receive the same rights and opportunities as everyone else in America despite my physical appearance, and my identity as a Muslim girl.

Boston GLOW: What three questions would you ask a female elected official?

Isho Haji: 

1. In field where women are 

underrepresented what led you to becoming a politician?
2. Why do you think a lot of women are not in politics?
3. As a women in what ways do you think the U.S would benefit from electing a female president?


Isho poses with the other GAPP Girl Leaders and two women delegates from Thailand.  We are proud to have Isho serve as a 2015 GAPP Girl Leader and represent the #RealGirlLeaders of Boston.  

Do you know any #RealGirlLeaders making a difference?

We'd love to highlight them - email for details.



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Real Girl Leaders: Yinyu Li


Today is the final day of our 2015 #RealGirlLeaders blog series.  We are thrilled to announce the Grand Prize Winner of our 2015 IGNITE Change contest, Yinyu Li.  Yinyu is 15 and a student at Boston Latin School.  Now in it's 5th year, the IGNITE Change contests asks girls throughout Boston what they would change about the role of women and girls in their school or community.  This spring, with the support of Boston GLOW, Yinyu will be implementing her project to empower women and girls in business.  Congratulations Yinyu and all our #RealGirlLeaders!

Ignite Girls in Business

As a child, I remember being asked, What do you

want to be when you grow up? I had no idea at the time, but I answered solemnly, “A boss.” Adults laughed at my response, and only later did I realize why: girls aren’t expected to assume the roles of CEO or chairwoman, and with the exception of a few ambitious women, few actually reach these posts over the course of their careers.

Frankly, today’s women are devastatingly under-represented within high management positions. It is well known that only 3% of CEOs in the Fortune 500--the five hundred largest American companies--are women.[1] This is sharply at odds with the fact that women constitute the majority of the consumer market and “control more than 80% of U.S. spending.”[2] In other words, women have little say in the products made for and purchased by them, suggesting that in order to drive social change, women must play a more prominent role in business. Inequality on the workforce, in terms of pay and promotion, after all, has been a situation faced by women at all levels in all occupations for generations.

The challenge which stands before us is the popular perception that women are somehow unsuitable for senior management positions in businesses, which coincidentally are the highest earning jobs. For kids, this is the


idea that “bosses” are men and “secretaries” are women. For young women like me, this is an inferiority complex ingrained by our society that both discourages us from our aspirations and exacerbates workplace inequality.

However, I believe that we can alleviate this problem within our local community by introducing young girls to entrepreneurship and business. Thus I propose a program for fifteen middle-school girls from across the city over the course of ten workshops in which they will be making and selling crafts and effectively working as a team to build their own “company.” In conjunction to providing this hands-on experience, I hope to invite local college student volunteers and female entrepreneurs, perhaps from the Boston Entrepreneurs’ Network or Wonder Women of Boston, to speak with and mentor the girls during each session. This is an engaging and cost-effective opportunity for girls to foster their own entrepreneurial skills and learn more about the process of running a business.

At the start of the program, participants will learn to make a small selection of jewelry: chain necklaces, leather bracelets, and beaded earrings. The materials for these crafts will be provided by the budget and during this time, girls will be able to experiment with and develop their “product line.” I intend to make the experience highly enjoyable by providing them with the opportunity to design their own jewelry and to make crafts together, activities which will call upon the girls’ teamwork and creativity. With the help of our mentors (college business majors and female entrepreneurs), they will be guided in the process of product research and of minimizing the costs of production.



The next few workshops will involve the sale of their handmade jewelry and crafts. To promote their “company,” girls will develop a brand and marketing strategy. In this process, they will learn to distinguish themselves from competitors, to understand their customers, and to advertise online, especially through social media. The girls will sell their products themselves to their own acquaintances and at local farmers’ markets, such as the Roslindale Farmers’ Market, as well as through an online shop. I also plan to negotiate with local retailers, such as thrift shops like Boomerangs in West Roxbury, to sell their crafts.

At each workshop, girls will engage in a discussion and reflection upon the most effective strategies: Which designs sold the best? How can they improve sales? What was the best way to promote the “company?” By analyzing results and making influential decisions together, the girls will also be exercising their critical thinking and communication skills. Part of the budget allows for the participant team to decide on how to spend efficiently, whether on raw materials or promotion. The purpose of this activity is to hone the girls’ financial decision making, with the goal of generating as much profit as possible. These expenditures made during the program will be documented carefully and any money left the end of the program will be donated back to Boston GLOW.

The handicraft business developed by the participating girls will essentially simulate a startup company. This endeavor will present girls with an exciting introduction to the business world and may potentially inspire girls to start their own business or to become a leader within the local community. By teaching them marketable handicraft skills and crucial entrepreneurial skills, this program seeks to empower girls to become valuable leaders and capable citizens.

What I hope girls will gain from this program is a new perspective on their futures and careers--they are not confined to being subordinates in the workplace, nor do they lack anything to become successful businesswomen. I believe that women need to be able to envision themselves in high positions, to aim high, and to maintain their dreams, without being held back by traditional views of male dominance. The stigma and unequal pay that comes with being an ambitious or acknowledged woman, as seen in the case of many female celebrities and within workplaces, needs to be eradicated by the increased involvement of women in high management positions. Just by exposing young women to entrepreneurship and by showing them that they too can make money independently, I hope that more girls will be determined to become passionate and responsible leaders. Perhaps then, we will be one step closer to the day when nobody will laugh at a little girl who says she wants to become a boss.

[1]Klotz, Frieda. "Equality At Work For Women: Is This As Good As It Gets?" Forbes. Accessed April 6, 2015.

[2]"Women Dominate The Global Market Place; Here Are 5 Keys To Reaching Them." Co.Design. April 11, 2011. Accessed April 6, 2015.

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Real Girl Leaders: Jacarrea Garraway


Over the past 8 weeks it has been an honor to highlight to voices of #RealGirlLeaders in the Boston community.  Today is no different.  Today we bring you Jacarrea Garraway who is a 17 year old student at Boston Latin Academy.  Jacarrea is a true leader advocating for more leadership and representation of women in film.  This spring, Jacarrea will be putting her IGNITE Change plan into action with the support of Boston GLOW.  For more information, email


I have been obsessed with the entertainment industry for as long as I can remember. This past year, I have been apart of a film program where we write our own screenplays, work with real film equipment and edit our own projects in a computer lab. It's great- except for the fact that it didn't take long for me to notice that I am the only girl in the class. Every year the program often has a limited number of girls, but this year it was at an all time low. It is a bit awkward for me to participate in the conversations we have sometimes because all the topics are told from a male perspective and I feel as though my input would be ignored. I was inspired by this to do something that may give women and girls more representation in mainstream media.

 As girls, the media is not always our best friend. For years it has degraded us, but every once in a while, we see a strong female character that reminds us how powerful girls really are and that usually happens because there are strong female influences working behind the scenes. From a young age on, we stare at our television sets and watch different representations of women, some who are in the popular crowd, others who are outcast and some who are just placed in a situation for male enjoyment but there is much more to these stories that could be included if there were more women crafting these shows and movies. When girls have big dreams of hollywood, not all of them solely desire to be the model/actress types, but there are those still in the shadows that actually want to be on set holding up the megaphone as a director, who want to be on their computers typing up the next great American screenplay that is bound to get Oscar buzz and there are even girls out there who want to be behind the scenes editing where all the magic happens- but many of them think that they won’t fit into those roles because it’s mostly men who have the most success in those areas. How many female directors, screenwriters and editors can you name off the top of your head without searching on google? Probably not many, and that is exactly why more women need to fulfil these positions. According to an NY Times article called ‘Lights, Camera, Take Action: On Many Fronts, Women are Fighting for Better Opportunity in Hollywood’ it states that, “ increasing numbers of people — if mostly women — are pushing back hard at the industry’s biases. And they’re pushing back publicly, a gutsy stance in an industry that runs on secrets, lies and fear.” In other words, there should be no more excuses as to why more women shouldn’t be busting their way into hollywood offices and getting the careers they so rightfully deserve.

 Girls need to start seeing for themselves that they have the potential to excel in the entertainment business like men do; all they need is more exposure to the field. My proposal is to have workshops for girls at schools and/or community centers that would help them learn the fundamental basics of designing a film. I would like to call this project “Garraway Studios” which would be known as ‘a girl-powered film/media organization.’ The workshops will demonstrate how to begin the process of making a film by first developing and pitching the idea, creating a storyboard, being taught how to format a screenplay, learning how to correctly use film equipment, experimenting with cinematography and gaining some simple video editing skills. The final product will be posted on a youtube page created for the program. During this process the girls will learn to persevere and remain true to their artistic vision while also learning how to collaborate together when working on a common goal. In the beginning workshops, the girls will discuss topics pertaining to the entertainment industry that have potentially affected the way they look at themselves or women in general and then they will develop storylines that will enforce the messages and images they actually want to see on their screens.


Empowerment would be one of the main goals of the program. If more girls believed in themselves, then they would break more barriers. The workshops would be made simple for girls with varied experience in filmmaking. By the end of the workshops, all of them should be able to take charge on any set if they wanted to. They should realize that men are not the only ones who can control what the public sees. The workshop is directed towards getting the notion erased from young girls minds that they are not capable of making films as good as men because that’s not true at all! If these girls learn that lesson now, jacarrea2.jpgthey will not be so easily intimidated by the male ego when they become grown women.

 The budget will provide 12 girls the opportunity to participate in these workshops. They should be from different neighborhoods and come from different backgrounds in the Boston area. The workshop would be mentored by local women with expertise in working with film, television and communications. The workshops should also feature special guest who are currently making a name for themselves by being apart of big hollywood productions, owning their own film companies or writers who have had their scripts developed into actual independent movies, etc. These speakers will be an example to the girls on how to remain focused on their aspirations, learn how to cope with rejection and remain strong while learning which opportunities are the right to pursue and which ones wouldn’t be the best career choices. Plus, these speakers may be able to answer any other questions girls have about the industry that they would be otherwise unable to find out without being provided this as a resource.

 This is such an important matter to me, not just as an aspiring entertainer, but as a girl myself because they are not many chances for us to prove how great we are like there should be. We have the take the initiative to go out there and find ways to get acquainted with people who are in the film industry and network to make connections that might get us to where we want to be without having to exploit ourselves. We have to learn how to define who we are and not let anyone else or even the media do that for us. It can be difficult to make it in an industry this competitive if you don’t feel any support from somewhere. Even if they don’t go on to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, my goal is for them to take what they learned from the workshops and be able to apply it anything they do in life. They may encounter a few tough roadblocks in their paths but I want them to keep moving forward until they reached the destination that they desire.

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Real Girl Leaders: Mei Mei Collins

It's Wednesday and we love Wednesday here at Boston GLOW because it's #RealGirlLeader Day!

Today's #RealGirlLeader is Mei Mei Collins.  Mei Mei is 15 and a student at Sommerville High School.  Her 2015 IGNITE Change Project on Renewable Energy will be implemented this year!  We are excited to see her project become a reality to empower women and girls in STEM!

If you would like to attend Mei Mei's class or if you are a professional in the field on Renewable Energy we'd love to hear from you.  Mei Mei will be implementing her project starting in March of 2016! For more details email

An Introduction to Renewable Energy

            As a young woman in today’s society, I can confidently state that there is no shortage of female teen scientists in the public school system. Some of the most promising students in my STEM classes are women- so why is the majority of the science and technology workforce comprised of men? I believe the answer lies in the academic relationship between males and females. From a young age, girls are exposed to the world through a viewpoint that makes them feel inferior to boys in

meimei1.jpgmost regards. With this prior exposure, when women are presented opportunities that allegedly are gender equal, they subconsciously address their own work as menial and lesser than that of men. On the contrary, boys are raised with expectations to succeed in STEM subjects based on previous stereotypes that should no longer be present in this world. When men and women collaborate, these social injustices are displayed on average in the low self-esteem of girls and the gaudy display of confidence from boys.

            To surpass this gender inequity, men and women must concur and recognize the commensuration of their abilities in
order to achieve even more prodigious results in their studies. Both men and women have unique a

bilities that they can offer the world, and the only way to truly prosper is to unite and implement each gender’s attributes to advance the globe. This

alliance should  be forged when students are beginning to fully immerse themselves in their studies during high school. One area of science that is becoming increasingly important is environmental engineering; the growing effects of climate change are forcing mankind to consider actions and change to accommodate these transformations. It is possible to both improve gender equality and inform the new generations of environmental science in order to provide more opportunities for students to improve the world.

            If I was awarded with one grand from Boston Glow, I would develop an introductory course on renewable energy to allow women to work with men and realize that their full potential is equal to that of males. It is vital for female scientists to prove to themselves that gender is simply a difference of one chromosome in their genes, something that doesn’t affect their intellect or capabilities. An in-depth lab setting would allow females to build a stable community with males in which they will be confident in future higher educational settings.

            The educational course would be held at the Somerville Public High School, which is an ideal location for all students in the greater Boston area because it is located near many MBTA locations, allowing easy transportation. In addition, the class being held at a high school is important because of the many resources in a high school- mainly the chemistry lab room. Although all the materials for the class would be funded within the $1000 limit, additional supplies such as safety equipment (gloves and safety goggles), Bunsen burners, and customary lab materials such as vials and beakers would be provided by the school. Other components that may be necessary such as advertisements for the course (an example is provided below) and participation awards could be created and printed by the Design and Visual Graphics Communications department in the high school. In addition to the $1000 provided by GLOW, a low $5 donation could be requested from each student in order to purchase snacks and drinks for each meeting. The funds would be enough to teach a class of 18 students, with at least half of the students being females. The class size of 18 would be ideal because it would allow the students to break into groups of two, three, six, or nine evenly if necessary.

In total, there would be five classes around two hours each for a five week period on a weekday. Although there would be an adult volunteer from the science department to oversee the classes, they would mostly be taught by interactive presentations that I would create- these presentations w

ould be stressed on student participation with encouragement for students with previous knowledge to teach the class as well. In the classroom that would be used for the class (a diagram is provided below), there are five lab tables in the classroom allowing four students to sit at each, with a supply tray on each table that would hold the necessary materials for the laboratory procedures of that class. In the center of the room would be an arrangement of regular desks facing a SmartBoard used for the informational presentation portion of class.

meimei2.jpgIn the first class, students would have an introductory period which would be followed by an overview of the types of renewable energy and their benefits and disadvantages. After a quick break, the students would learn basics of electronic terms and learn how to use multimeters, which they would test using silicon solar cells. The next class would be comprised of the first lab, but would begin with an in-depth look at the components of a silicon solar cell and its processes of electrical generation, as well as a short lesson on the visible light spectrum and its importance. The first lab would begin after a ten minute break, and students would investigate which wavelength of light would create the greatest amount of power in a silicon solar cell. Each person would have a lamp with light bulb, a silicon solar cell, and some different colored cellophane to change the color of the light shining on the cells. After the data was collected, a class discussion would be held on reasoning for the results. The third class would begin with an introduction to a new type of solar cell- a dye sensitized solar cell (DSSC), starting with its components and electric creation process. Next, the procedure for creating the cells would be explained to start the lab activity after a break. To begin the lab activity, students would start to create their own DSSCs by making the anode of the cell. Each student would make three DSSCs for a later lab activity- the three DSSCs would be formed with different organic dye extracts. Although students would have their own independent projects, they would sit in groups of two-four in order to brainstorm and work together, the females developing confidence through their projects working alongside males.

In the fourth class, students would complete their dye sensitized solar cells by creating the cathode of the cell and assembling all of the materials. Following a break, students would begin a lab activity involving the DSSCs in which they would test which type of dye would create the most electricity using lamps and multimeters. The results would be shared and compared in a class discussion, with hypotheses for the data received. In the final class, students would perform a lab similar to the first in which the DSSC with the best performance for each student would be tested to see which wavelength of light would create the largest output. After a break, the students would compare the results between the dye sensitized solar cells and the silicon cells throughout the experiments, with a celebratory party at the end of class to congratulate students. Students would be able to take home the dye sensitized solar cells that they would have created as well as their own silicon solar cell and multimeter. A more detailed description of the schedule is included below.

With funds from Boston GLOW, I would be able to create an impactful educational  program that would increase the confidence of women for the sciences by placing them in an environment where males and females are equal intellectual individuals. In addition, the free cost of this program (not including the $5 requested donation for snacks) would create an opportunity for low income students that are interested in environmental science but cannot afford conventional classes. The exposure to renewable energy may inspire students, especially women, to pursue a career in STEM science fields to better the world. The earlier students are presented different ways to innovate, the better chance the earth has to persevere through climate change. An introductory course of environmental science would be an amazing experience for many teens, specifically females, to discover gender equality and explore technological advancements to combat modern day obstacles that will be crucial in the future.


To learn more about Mei Mei's project or any of our #RealGirlLeaders, please contact  We'd love your support.


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Real Girl Leaders: Eliza Klein

As we continue to highlight #RealGirlLeaders, we bring you Eliza Klien.  Eliza is 18 years old and a recent graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.  She is a 2015 Boston GLOW #IGNITEChange Finalist working to empower girls through creating more positive images of women and girls in fantasy and fiction.  Below you will find her winning 2015 IGNITE Change essay!


Celebrating Female Characters: A Zine About Strong Young Women


For years, I saw myself as a minor character in my own story. There is nothing bleaker than the powerlessness of feeling like a minor character in one’s own life. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon sentiment for quiet, insecure teenage girls.

            It was this feeling of insignificance that initially drew me to the genre of fantasy. The main characters in fantasy are individuals who thought they were nobody, only to wake up one morning to realize that they were special and the world needed them. I could imagine my face as theirs, their deeds as my own. Reading their stories gave mine a little more importance and provided me with an escape into bizarre eliza1.jpgand intriguing worlds.

During sophomore year, I began to really question what I was reading. Before then, I had read for the stories, read for the characters, read to escape. But then, like a light had gone off, I began to notice the heroes that I was always rooting for, the brave saviors, were more often than not men. Where, I began to wonder, are the women in these fantasy books? Where are my people?

If I had $1000, I would use it to start a conversation about strong female characters in fantasy fiction. These characters are often missing, often overlooked, and female students in my community would feel more empowered if this conversation existed.

            I am currently participating in a semester-long project that examines how young women access power in various mediums of fantasy. I am working with two other female friends through the English department at our public high school. Specifically, in our project we are comparing how women access power in High Fantasy, a sub-genre consisting of an imagined world, versus in Urban Contemporary Fantasy, a sub-genre that take

s place in our urban world but contains characters with supernatural powers.

My partners and I feel that it is important to study how female characters access power in different types of Young Adult literature. This is because young readers - and especially young female readers - can deeply internalize the messages that books send to them. Sometimes, books send empowering messages to young readers. For example, after reading the Harry Potter series in fifth grade, I felt more comfortable with my own convictions because of Hermione Granger, the series’ strong female protagonist. Hermione taught me to be unapologetic for my beliefs and to express myself fearlessly with power and pride. Hermione accesses strength through her intellect, her confidence, and most of all, her unwavering voice. She is an example of a strong female role model within the fantasy genre.

However, fantasy fiction can also send disempowering messages to young readers. It is important that, as young women, we begin to identify these messages so that we can subvert them. Smashing the patriarchy begins by recognizing the problematic messages to which we are exposed. One issue I’ve noticed in the fantasy genre is that throughout both High and Urban Contemporary fantasy, strong women are almost always portrayed as white. Young Adult literature that ignores issues of intersectionality and racism cannot comprehensively empower all young women, as these books send the covert message that all heroes and heroines have to have light skin and straight hair.

            Evidently, Young Adult literature sends varied messages to readers, both positive and negative. I believe that starting a conversation in my community about how women access power in fantasy fiction will allow my peers to celebrate strong female characters as well as think critically about what they are reading (and watching - many popular TV shows fall under the “fantasy fiction” category, such as Game of Thrones, Supernatural, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

In order to start a conversation about powerful female characters - and sexism within fantasy literature - in my community, I have begun to create a zine with my friends. Zines are self-made, self-published mini-magazines, and they are often utilized to spread awareness about social justice issues. Our zine will include art, articles, poetry, interviews with local fantasy authors, and analysis of how women are both accessing power and being overlooked within the genres of High and Urban Contemporary fantasy. We have already begun our work for the zine, and a few of our comics for the zine are attached at the end of this essay.

            My peers and I truly believe that if we can get this zine circulating, we will spark a broad conversation about women in literature and both the triumphs and shortcomings of feminism in fantasy fiction. Middle and high school aged girls in my intellectual, progressive city are always reading, an

d this zine would both celebrate student work as well as give local young women a way to start thinking about the complex messages they are receiving from their books. Since I live in a very liberal city, most teenage girls self-identify as feminists and are already aware of many gender issues that exist in our society. However, I feel as though the issue of female literary characters, and how they are often under-recognized, or even missing, is often overlooked.

            Though we are not finished with our zine, I am confident that this project will have long-lasting effects on our community. Our zine celebrates young voices, strong women, and female writers, and it points out issues within fantasy fiction - the lack of female characters, the lack of people of color, and the general patriarchal systems that undermine female power. Attached is a list of what we would do with $1000 to start this conversation about women in literature.

Our list of costs adds up to $950. We would donate the remaining $50 to our local, student-run feminist club, which has empowered my peers and I in many ways and runs off of donations and fundraisers. In addition, once our zine is published and bound, we will circulate it throughout our community, donate a few copies to the library, and sell copies to interested students. We will sell the zine for $4 and donate all of the proceeds to a women’s shelter in our town.

            I am incredibly passionate about fantasy literature and about feminism. I feel that young women in my community can truly become empowered by thinking critically about what they read, about the messages they see in society, and about the female characters in their books. I want to raise awareness about the fact that there aren’t enough powerful female characters - and especially non-white female characters - in fantasy. I also want to celebrate the heroines that do exist, with the hopes that other young readers will find the same empowerment in Hermione Granger (and other characters) that I did. Finally, I want to celebrate the voices of real young women in my community through my zine. My friends and I will showcase our own work, but we are also taking submissions from other students in our school, and will include all creative submissions in our zine.

            With $1000, young women in my community will have access to a student-created piece of work - a zine - that will allow them to begin recognizing and combating oppressive literature, as well as celebrating the strong female heroes who have shaped us in so many ways.


Examples of art pieces in our zine:








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Real Girl Leaders: Douana Offre


Today we bring you our 5th #RealGirlLeader, Duoana Offre.  Douana is 17 and a student at Cathedral High School. Douana is a 2015 Boston GLOW IGNITE Change Finalist, and an example of the young women in the Boston area putting forth real ideas to create lasting change for women and girls.  Here's Douana's idea to empower women and girls!


Empower Each Other

Growing up as a member of the Millennial Generation, I have experienced many different things. This generation, I believe, has lost sight of what it really means to be a community helping one another and respecting one another. Often times this is not the case, with myself as well as other teen girls in or around my area. There is a lot of physical fighting and fighting on social media. There is so much unnecessary drama or "beef" within the communities of  Boston, not just with young women but with everyone from teens in early adolescence to grown adults in the prime time of their lives. These grudges can be held onto for long periods of time; sometimes they can last a lifetime. I often hear things like “I do not like this girl because she used to date a boy at the same time as me.” Instead of being angry at the boy in the middle, we take it out on each other.

Life is not about holding grudges and that is a motto I love to live by on a daily basis. A lot of girls my age say, " I don't trust other girls" or " I only hang out with guys because girls are all about drama." It’s sad.  As young girls growing into women, I believe we should empower each other not diminish each other. As women, we already have a disadvantage in society due the system of oppression known as sexism that gives unearned advantage to men and oppresses women or gender nonconforming people. We already have the stress of sexism upon us; we don't need to add even more stress onto ourselves. We have to fight harder to receive the same amount of respect as males. We are just as capable and as intelligent, if not more, than males and we can't let this false idea of what women are to define who we truly and genuinely are.

This is why if I had $1,000 to spend to make a change for girls in my community I would spend it on establishing an organization called the Teen Girls’ Neighborhood Collaborative Boston. This organization would be a space for the young women between the ages of 12 to 19 in the city to get together and discussion different issues, such as domestic abuse, violence, teen pregnancy support, struggles with school, etc, as well as a safe space to deal with any drama or “beef” in a positive way. There would be experts to help deal with the different issues we are faced with as young women. I know for me personally, I would love a space that serves to do this. I am tired of seeing my friends fighting over childish things. We should stop doing this to ourselves. We are separating ourselves. It’s a natural thing for women to be jealous of each other but if we were to empower each other and connect with each other it would make a big difference.

I envision it being a 2 to 3 time a week place for girls to get what they need from experts or their peers. Some of the services would be college preparation, counseling, homework help, social working etc. I know for me personally, I cannot go to any faculty members at school or a lot of these things. The daily routine would look like this:




4:00 to 5:00:


Check in


4:00 to 5:00:


Check in




Check In

Ice breaker

5:00 to 5:30


5:00 to 5:30

Deep Sessions/Healing Circles

5:00 to 5:30


5:30 to 6:00

Closing/ Plus or Delta

5:30 to 6:00

Acknowledgements/ Appreciations

5:30 to 6:00

Closing/ Plus or Delta


            The start of the day would be focused on getting school work done then quick check ins that would consistent of questions such as "how are you and how was your day," "rate your day" or a fun question of the day. The icebreaker would come next to liven up the mood before getting into either the activity of the day or deep sessions. Some of the activities would consistent of things like doing research for an upcoming project, planning an upcoming organization party, planning a fundraiser, making up your own poem or rap or picture that expresses who you are, guest speakers etc. as well as many other things that would bring the group together. Examples of the guest speakers would be therapist, teen clinic representatives or any other person who would talk about their experiences, how they overcame them, and their advice to anyone dealing with it.  Some of the activities would be healing circles to get all the drama out in the open and help them move on and grow from it; or fishbowls which are an inner and outer circle, talking about the question at hand then rotating for each new question. These activities add to why this organization would be different from others; instead of just stating the problems, we would take the next steps to solve these problems. The day would end with a closing chant, plus or delta or acknowledgements or appreciations.

            I find that if you give girls the space to express themselves, they can build up the courage or confidence to do the same in other areas of their lives. I've always been a very shy person but after becoming a part of a social justice organization known as The City School, I have been able to express my emotions more and speak up more instead of being very reclusive. It helped me come out of my shell and blossom into the young woman I am today. I can only imagine doing that same thing for others.  I want every young girl that comes through this organization to tap into her inner self and let it shine. If it makes a difference in at least one life, then I know that I made a good decision by making this dream a reality.

            I've also had a passion for helping young women, whether it be friends or classmates or coworkers. I love being that go to person for advice, support, love or care. I have been doing my research on many of the problems we face and I can see myself continuing on in this line of education to help those around me. It's an amazing feeling knowing you can make a difference in a community for the wellbeing of others. I also loving watching the growth of others.  The initial goal of this organization would be to spark change and reconciliation between the young women in the different communities of Boston

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Real Girl Leaders: Rebecca Sadock

Today is the 4th week in our #RealGirlLeaders blog series.  This series highlights the community change projects written by high school aged girls in the Greater Boston area.  These ten young women developed projects and budgets to address the issues they see as a challenge to women and girls in their communities.  Today's #RealGirlLeaders project comes from Rebecca Sadock a 17 year old recent graduate of Cambridge Ringe and Latin School. 


Infiltrating the Technology Industry

  After haphazardly rebeccas2.jpgenrolling in Introduction to Computer Science last spring and loving the course, I was emboldened to apply to Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program. While I have preferred the humanities and social sciences to mathematics since elementary school, Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization striving to reduce the gender disparity in the field of computer science, broadened my understanding of mathematics' diverse applications. Numbers, I have found, concrete and devoid of subjectivity in traditional mathematics classes like calculus, facilitate exploration and creativity when embedded in code.

During my seven weeks at Girls Who Code, my budding passion for computer science flourished as I witnessed and engaged in innovation at its highest level. Touring technology companies in the Boston area as part of the program, I reveled in groundbreaking projects on facial recognition and listened intently as venture capitalists outlined their investment strategies. For Girls Who Code's final graduation project, I demonstrated my own proficiency in several programming languages, collaborating on a mobile application that I pitched to software engineers from Microsoft and Twitter. As I immersed myself in coding, Girls Who Code emphasized that the underrepresentation of female programmers in the technology industry ought to be addressed by actively recruiting them to the profession. Urging participants to resist gender discrimination as they involve themselves in the computer science community, Girls Who Code reinforced that girls can and should overcome the gender obstacles that might deter them from pursuing their interests in programming and other STEM fields.

Learning to code is a valuable experience that should be afforded to more girls at an early age. In learning how to code, girls obtain a unique skillset that will provide them with many academic and professional opportunities as they transition into adulthood. It is of the utmost importance that more girls become adept in computer science because of the staggering amount of high-paying jobs available in the technology industry. According to Girls Who Code’s main website, “The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings.” Unfortunately, while there is an abundance of software engineering positions in the United States, “just 12% of computer science degrees are awarded to women” who “hold just 25% of the jobs in technical or computing fields.” Very few women are qualified to enter the technology industry. As a result, technology companies, even those who are eager to diversify their workforce, are compelled to hire men in order to fill their numerous job openings. Women are therefore largely excluded from an industry whose employees regularly earn six figure salaries with benefits, have flexible work hours, and are able to take significant maternity and paternity leaves- they cannot reap the benefits of a tech job. Until women infiltrate the technology industry in significant numbers, taking advantage of its outstanding opportunities, gender equity will not be achieved, preventing any significant advancement of women’s rights in the labor market.

In order to rectify the gender inequities in the field of computer science as it stands today, I have been volunteering for a Girls Who Code Club that I co-founded in association with the Harvard Women in Computer Science Club since September. Every Saturday, I teach a diverse group of middle school girls from Cambridge about computer science, emphasizing the opportunities available to women in the technology industry. Through the Girls Who Code Club, these girls have acquired valuable technology skills. They have already coded in Scratch, Javascript, HTML, and CSS. If they were to enter a high school-level computer science class today, they would be prepared for the material covered in the curriculum and they would likely do very well with respect to their older peers. More importantly, these girls have learned to love computer science and are excited to advance their understanding of the subject. They talk about their projects with vigor and passion. They are proud of what they have accomplished since the beginning of the year, but they look forward to accomplishing much more. Since they have been exposed to computer science at an early age, they are unlikely to forsake their love of the field as they develop into young adults. They will not be di


ssuaded from pursuing computer science by the fact that the technology industry is male-dominated.

I would like to use the GLOW scholarship to expand my existing Girls Who Code Club so that it reaches out to many more girls in the Boston area. 

I am aware that Girls Who Code Clubs have already been started in many parts of Boston, but I want to make my club different. I want to provide the girls in my club with opportunities that would not be available to them at a typical Girls Who Code Club. First of all, I would want to make field trips to different technology companies a monthly occurrence. I believe that girls are inspired by visits to companies such as Google or Microsoft because they are be

Another way in which I would like to improve my Girls Who Code Club is to host a huge hackathon for all middle school and high school girls in the Boston area at the end of each year. The hackathon would last six hours from 9 AM to 3 PM on a Saturday in April or May. The girls in my club would participate in the hackathon and would share their creations with the rest of the participants at the end of the event in order to highlight what they have learned over the course of the program. Through the hackathon, the girls would see that there is an extensive computer science community that they can join as fellow programmers. The girls would hopefully understand that there is a large network of girls their own age (or slightly older) who are also interested in computer science and hope to make a career out of programming. The hackathon would enable the girls to connect with many other female programmers that might serve as friends or mentors in the future. Since this club is being run in association with Harvard Women in Computer Science, I believe that Harvard would be willing to lend us a space for the event. I also believe that computers could be provided for the girls who do not have them. We would definitely need money to provide refreshments for the event. I would use the rest of the money to give the girls certificates indicating that they have participated in the hackathon.tter able to envision themselves as employees at those companies. When they observe employee solving a challenging coding problem or a pioneering technological innovation, they imagine themselves in that employee’s place. It is important for girls to realize that working at a leading technology company is a reality for them if they pursue computer science. Many technology companies are willing to provide tours to school groups for free, but it would cost $420 to take 40 girls to and from five technology companies on the MBTA at a student rate. The cost of transportation would be worth it, though, considering how valuable it would be for the girls to understand that there are futures for them in the technology industry.

Coding is a rewarding and enjoyable skill that every girl should learn from a young age. In an age of technology, it is imperative that girls learn how to code if they want to compete with their male counterparts for the best jobs in the market. With funding from the GLOW Scholarship, my Girls Who Code Club would introduce many more girls to computer science and would promote their interest in the field to an extent that is not possible for me to achieve right now.

 To learn more about the IGNITE Change Contest or how to support the Girls Leadership program or an individual IGNITE Change project, please contact

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