DescriptionIn this master’s thesis, I examine the High School Leadership Program, a semester-long leadership development program for young women at the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Rutgers University, as a site of voice development and thus empowerment for girls. As I argue throughout this thesis, by providing young women with the opportunity to explore, develop, and use their voices, and nurturing an understanding of how voice can be used for action and social change, the HSLP provided girls with a space in which they could take emotional risk, thereby learning more about who they are and their personal and professional goals.
Following a literature review and description of my data, I build my argument by investigating what I believe to be the three program components key to nurturing girls’ voice development and agency: a feminist community with a network of role models, advocates, and supportive feedback; the exploration and articulation of inner voice, informed by an oppositional consciousness as well as alternative definitions of leadership; and the embodiment, enactment, and expression of girls’ personal values and goals. In these investigations, it is my intention to show that through the exploration and expression of personal voice, girls better define their sense of personal agency and better envision themselves as leaders in the community. Through and as a result of this work, girls also begin to affirm their position as a force to be heard and taken seriously; posit themselves as agents of change within their communities; act as role models to other individuals within their communities; create networks of female leadership for support and strength; and better envision, plan for, and take steps toward reaching their professional and personal goals.