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.”
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” (www.girlup.org). 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.