Simmons Alum Gives Girls the Tools to Succeed
We caught up with Renata Bule '15 about her work with Strong Women, Strong Girls.
On choosing Simmons
I come from an immigrant family with 4 daughters and incredibly strong parents. Because I've been surrounded by strong women my whole life, I've always felt comfortable standing in my own strength. However, outside of the safety of our home, I was constantly told that I was too much, too aggressive and too opinionated. I wanted a place that challenged me to find new and meaningful ways to use my voice, and encouraged me to use it in service of the things I believed in. I knew that Simmons' urban setting and women-centered focus was exactly where I needed to be.
On Strong Women, Strong Girls
Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) is a mentoring organization that provides after school programming for 3rd through 5th grade girls. Our mission is to empower girls to imagine a broader future through a curriculum grounded on female role models delivered by college women mentors, who are themselves mentored by professional women. We operate in 42 sites (elementary schools and community centers) in the Greater Boston area, and our volunteers come from 6 college chapters in the area. There is a Simmons Chapter of SWSG which has about 25 mentors who deliver our programming! Simmons has been a key partner for SWSG since we started a chapter there in the early 2000s.
On the Simmons SWSG chapter
I'm an alumna of the program! My involvement in this chapter was one of the most formative experiences of my time at Simmons. I worked directly with the incredibly powerful youth of Boston and benefited from really strong peers (who became my mentors). When I graduated with a degree in public health, it was really difficult to leave SWSG because of the support I was able to offer girls in Boston, as well as the support I received from the greater SWSG community. When a job opened up on the Program Team at SWSG, I knew I needed to come and work towards making this amazing organization even stronger.
On her position with SWSG
As Program Manager, I oversee our entire program by ensuring that the proper supports are in place for our volunteers, sites and girls so we can deliver the best programming possible. I spend my days working closely with the college-aged women in our program, providing guidance, training and support. I also plan a number of events, develop parts of our curriculum and I'm currently revamping our monitoring and evaluation systems so we can better track our impact. Sometimes I'll go on site visits where I participate in the SWSG program sessions and get to see our current SWSG mentors in action! As a mentor alumna, engaging and interacting with the girls is where I'm most comfortable. Every time I do a site visit, I'm reminded of the purpose of our organization and that we exist to serve youth, first and foremost. It's a great way to stay energized around our mission and a reminder to keep on going, even when things get messy!
On empowering women
At SWSG, we say that our model is based on cycles of mutual empowerment—so our college volunteers, the girls in our program and the professional women in our program—all benefit from a really strong community of all ages. Our multi-generational mentoring model is a key factor in our mission—we're working to build a community of strength around each girl so she can achieve her own version of success. In a world that tells girls and women to do one thing or be one thing, it's really rewarding to assure these girls that it's okay to take up space.