Louisville Girls Leadership (LGL) is a nonprofit that benefits high school-aged girls from every high school in Louisville – public and private. The participants plan campaigns and events that focus on societal challenges young women deal with today. We spoke with Program Coordinator and former LGL participant Kelsie Smithson to learn more about the organization’s mission, fundraising and events.
LGL aims to guide young girls through their teen years to develop meaningful skills and relationships. “As members of an inclusive community, girls amplify their societal impact, becoming exceptional leaders in their world,” said Smithson. “We achieve this mission through programming that is for girls, by girls. Each year we welcome students representing every public and private high school in Louisville to explore their personal leadership style through the lens of challenges impacting society today.”
Spreading the Love
The young women of LGL are the catalysts for programs and events, and they are currently recruiting a new class of sophomores to join the action. “We’ll choose up to 40 from across Louisville to participate, and our steering committee of 20 juniors and seniors will lead the effort every step along the way,” enthused Smithson. “With the upperclassmen at the helm, we are able to focus on leveraging brilliant women from the area as speakers. We have had hundreds of women volunteer their time and wisdom to LGL during our 20-year existence. Our students also undertake an incredible volunteer effort each year and have been known to contribute a combined 5,000 hours in a single year.”
The Give For Good Goal
LGL has previously participated in Give For Good Louisville and sees more success with each year, so they’re hoping to keep that trend going. “We are considered a ‘micro’ nonprofit based on our budget size, which means that a day like this where the giving infrastructure, community energy to give and sense of urgency are a huge boost to our annual fundraising. Last year, we raised $8,000 using the new peer-to-peer fundraising feature and came closer to $10,000 thanks to the prizes that we qualified for.”
The organization has a wide variety of events and campaigns that are created by the students. “Our participants just wrapped up a media campaign that used the Jimmy Kimmel-style ‘Mean Tweets’ format to highlight how toxic online forums can be,” Smithson said, “and to encourage students and adults to challenge (the) tendency of passively consuming media.”
In 2019, their big event will be a Galentine’s Day dance on Feb. 15. The student leading this effort, Grace Bagga, a senior at Kentucky Country Day School and LGL co-chair, makes a compelling case for an event like this. “All girls deserve the chance to have a positive dance experience during their high school career,” Bagga said. “One where everyone feels welcome regardless of religion, cultural background, sexual orientation or any other perceived difference. This idea originated when a friend of mine (who wears a hijab) lamented that she could never attend homecoming or prom since it is haram (forbidden by Islamic law) to dance in front of guys. Other folks I know are hesitant to go to these kinds of events in fear that their self-expression will be ridiculed. Even people who don’t have these restrictions have to contend with unwanted attention like touching or grinding without consent. We want girls to dress how they want, dance how they want, listen to music they want and have fun with their friends freely. Our focus is on community and camaraderie and not coupledom.”
How You Can Help
The best way to stay informed is to follow LGL on Facebook (search Louisville Girls Leadership), Instagram and Twitter (@LGIRLSL) or join the email list at LouisvilleGirlsLeadership.org.
“Our program benefits greatly when we can introduce dynamic women to the students who represent a vast range of backgrounds, leadership styles and career paths,” said Smithson. “If someone has a story they would like to share or a soft skill they are excited to teach, they can reach out to us via our website and we will connect the dots to our curriculum. Beyond that, we can always benefit from sustained financial support to fund projects that students want to take on as well as spreading the word about the great work that the girls are doing.” VT
Louisville Girls Leadership
735 Lampton St., Suite 302