Student aims to share girl power
By Katie West
Priyanka Juneja has always had a passion for women empowerment issues, and early this summer, she decided to channel that passion into something bigger — a way to help people face-to-face.
Her student organization, Girls for Tomorrow, hosts workshops for middle school girls.
A native of Irmo, S.C., Juneja is getting a triple major at the University of South Carolina in international business, finance and global supply chain and operations management. She says her own experiences, including frequent travel to India, influenced her decision to found the organization.
“Being a minority woman in college makes me grateful that I got where I am,” she says. “I know there are so many women out there whose potential is stunted because they may not have had the right mentor or the right opportunity or the right path.”
Girls for Tomorrow has about 20 members, who are still working out exactly what they will present to the middle-schoolers. But they know they want to teach them the importance of self-esteem, personal finance, education and social media safety.
“It’s kind of an age group we ignore, but it’s so important because it’s that in-between, that hybrid space, between elementary and high school,” says Susan Schramme-Pate, the faculty adviser for the organization.
Raising awareness of educational opportunities is critical, says Schramme-Pate, a professor in the College of Education.
“Many of the children, especially in Lexington 2, their parents perhaps have not gone to college,” she says. “So even demystifying the whole college application process or enabling the young women to understand that what you do in the sixth through 12th grade is very important in terms of access to higher education once you graduate.”
The organization will kick off at Hand Middle School, where Girls for Tomorrow members will lead lunchtime discussions with girls at the school. But the time, frequency and topics of the meetings are flexible, Schramme-Pate says.
“I don’t want it to be our students going in and lecturing to the girls,” she says. “Rather, hearing what they have to say, figuring out what their needs are and having that shape the curriculum that we implement.”
After she worked to make Girls for Tomorrow an official university organization, Juneja realized she could use it for her Honors College senior thesis – a perfect fit for a student who says she wanted to finish her senior year at Carolina feeling like she gave something back to the school that gave her so much.
Juneja will graduate in May, but she and Schramme-Pate are adamant that the show will go on, transitioning leadership to some of the younger members of the organization and expanding to other area schools.
“In the next five years, I want Girls for Tomorrow to be on other campuses in the state, if not the nation,” says Juneja. “I feel like every college could benefit from having an organization like this on their campus.
“As successful college women, we should make it our goal to empower younger women to make it to the same place as we are.”
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