Girl Up Club at Highland Advocating for Change

Last month, on a bright April morning, Highland Girl Up club members Mia Tremblay ‘19, Maddie Kidd ‘19, and Claire Olson ‘18 loaded into Ms. Krumich’s car and headed south to Richmond. Their destination was the State Capitol and, specifically, a visit to Dave Brat’s office (R Virginia) to advocate for H.R. 2408: Protecting Girls’ Access to Education Act.

The time seemed ripe for a visit. Representative Brat had recently drawn some negative press after complaining that “women are in my grill no matter where I go” as he sought to put off a town hall meeting. Now, Brat’s office was eager to confirm Girl Up’s request for a visit to discuss girls’ education and Brat’s possible sponsorship of the bill.

Girl Up, an international advocacy group, was brought to Highland via Claire Olson ’18. Claire learned of the Girl Up Campaign in the summer following her freshman year and felt an immediate calling. “I found myself spending hours reading through the website and discovering the extent of Girl Up’s work in developing countries with girls,” she recalls. “I had no previous knowledge of the United Nations Foundation, and I was very curious to learn more about how the Girl Up Campaign operated.” She registered it as a Highland club in her sophomore year. Dean of Students Margie Kuzminski signed on as club sponsor; English teacher Phoebe Krumich became a faculty co-sponsor this year. Currently, there are ten club members.

The trip to Representative Brat’s office, however, stands out as a particular highlight. On that April day, the girls were warmly received by Ms. O’Herin, Brat’s legislative director, and had a substantive, productive discussion. They had spent hours preparing their talking points, and left encouraged that they had made a difference: O’Herin told them that Brat would consider co-sponsorship of the bill. "There is nothing like actually addressing these issues in person," says Mia Tremblay. "It gave us a feeling of significance, that we could make change.” Adds Ms. Krumich, “They were advocacy in action. It was very impressive.”

Claire Olson '18 with Highland Dean of Students Margie Kuzminski, who serves as a club sponsor

Girl Up is a “by girls, for girls” campaign that works in partnership with the UN to promote girls’ education, health, and social and economic opportunities. Begun by the United Nations Foundation in 2010, “Girl Up engages girls to stand up for girls, empowering each other and changing our world” ( Through leadership training and skills development, the program looks to create current and future leaders. Leveraging diverse global advocates including Queen Rania of Jordan, singer/actress Priyanka Chobra, and pro basketball player Mistie Bass, Girl Up members have lobbied congress, raised money for UN programs, and worked to empower girls globally through education and outreach. There are now over 1,000 clubs registered in 43 U.S. states and 51 countries.

Girl Up is a “by girls, for girls” campaign that works in partnership with the UN to promote girls’ education, health, and social and economic opportunities. Begun by the United Nations Foundation in 2010, “Girl Up engages girls to stand up for girls, empowering each other and changing our world” (

The three pillars of Girl Up at Highland are education, advocacy, and fundraising. Maddy Kidd ’19, who joined this year, found the emphasis on education resonated with her. “I recognize that my own education has been far superior even compared to kids who live a mile from me,” she remarks. “It is important to give the gift and opportunity of education to everyone.” After attending a lunch meeting to check out the club, she found it “was not only informative, but fun.” “I was hooked,” she says.

Girl Up has hosted a series of events at Highland this year, including the School Cycle Bake Sale, Global 5K Penny War, the Girl Up Birthday Bake Sale, as well as screenings of “He Named Me Malala” and “Akeelah and the Bee.” Money raised this year goes to UN programs in Guatemala supporting girls’ empowerment.

This summer, Claire Olson will attend the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, DC. She was there last summer, too, and recalls the feeling that came from being surrounded by advocates and activists, and 300 girls from around the world. “I can easily say that I’ve never been so inspired in my life to make a difference,” she reflects. Attending Girl Up Advocacy Boot Camp this past February further honed her advocacy skills; she shares those strategies and insights with fellow club members. “Claire is completely and utterly the reason for this club’s success,” says Maddy Kidd. Adds Mrs. Kuzminski, “Her commitment is inspirational.”

For Claire, who graduates next year, one important goal is the continuation of Girl Up at Highland. “Girl Up is an amazing campaign that can benefit the lives of Highland students and the lives of so many girls in developing countries” she says. “ I hope that the underclassmen will step up to take a leadership role and that the club will continue to expand its membership.”

In the meantime, there is always more advocacy work to be done. The club knows the stats: Globally, girls with no secondary education are six times more vulnerable to early marriage. People of voting age with a primary education are 1.5 times more likely to support democracy than those without. And the list goes on.

Representative Brat seems on board with bill to protect education for vulnerable girls, but Girl Up plans to reach out for support from Representatives Garrett and Comstock as well. In a time when many American citizens are rediscovering activism, Girl Up provides support and training-- a community of like-minded changemakers. “This is such an opportunity to learn about our government and about what it takes to get things done,” concludes Olson.

“It’s an exciting time to be a girl.”

Article by Cathy Campbell

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Highland School Office of Communications

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