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Our Women are Leading the Way!

Kate Ross


Women in Leadership is a flagship program of the YWCA of the University of Illinois, running for nearly a decade. It organizes small groups of female and female-identifying students into teams that spend the school year developing and implementing solutions to challenges brought by local nonprofits and businesses. Through this program, young women get invaluable experience in teamwork, project management, and working with clients. They also attend workshops that tackle unique issues women and women-identifying people face in the workplace, such as imposter syndrome, presented by local businesswoman and speaker, Tekita Bankhead.


Women in Leadership students just wrapped up an excellent semester. Through the fall, they spent time researching their partner organizations and giving presentations with solutions for their clients’ challenges. The clients were all very happy with the results and are looking forward to seeing the ideas come to life! The students will spend the rest of the school year implementing their projects. Here are the teams and what they are currently working on:


TEAM 1

Client: Urbana Arts & Culture Program

Members: Eleena Ahmed (Senior, Speech & Hearing Science), Myra Esmail (Sophomore, Molecular & Cellular Biology), Nhi Lu (Junior, Accountancy), Emily Mei (Sophomore, Business), Payal Patel (Sophomore, Marketing), Ksenia Polyarskaya (Sophomore, Instrumental Performance), Jocelyn Rodriguez (Junior, Latinx Studies & Pre-Nursing)

Project: This team was tasked with expanding the reach of the Urbana Arts & Culture’s programming to college-age students. To address this challenge, the team plans to collaborate directly with student groups and develop a comprehensive campus marketing strategy including updated social media. They will spend the Spring semester introducing student groups to Urbana Arts & Culture Program’s events and implementing their marketing plan.


TEAM 2

Client: Sistering CU (nonprofit that provides in-home support for parents of new babies)

Members: Esther Ajayi (Senior, Community Health), Bushra Gaffor (Senior, Psychology), Meera Joshi (Junior, Integrative Biology), Xiadani Mendoza (Sophomore, English & Political Science), Elidia Roman (Senior, Social Work)

Project: Sistering CU asked this team to come up with a sustainable method of increasing volunteer engagement. In response, the team developed the idea of creating an on-campus Registered Student Organization (RSO) that could help plan events for volunteers to increase satisfaction and engagement. They will spend the Spring semester setting up their RSO and recruiting members.


TEAM 3

Client: First Followers (nonprofit providing assistance and support to people who are reentering their communities after incarceration)

Members: Takyla Ivery (Senior, African American Studies), Jenny Resendiz (Sophomore, Global Studies), Jailine Santiago (Junior, Political Science), Queen Simmons (Senior, Psychology)

Project: First Followers asked this team for a plan to update their resource guide and to ensure that it would be easy and cost-effective to maintain going forward. This team completed both objectives by creating a website of resources (as opposed to a traditional printed document) that is easy to maintain and free to host. They will spend the Spring semester perfecting their web design and including as many resources as possible.


We are so proud of this group of people and honored to work with them. If you want to see their finished products, meet the teams, and celebrate their achievements, please plan to attend our End-of-Year Dinner on Sunday, April 19th at Broadway Food Hall, Urbana. Registration information forthcoming!

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