Project Embolden, a new mentorship program with New Roots Charter School, aims to create connections among Ithaca high school students and Ithaca College students.
The Class of 2020 BOLD Women’s Leadership Network Scholars organized the program that will take place at New Roots Charter School. This program is the Class of 2020 BOLD Scholars’ campus transformation project, which is a project every class of BOLD Scholars is required to do during its senior year. The first members of the college’s BOLD Scholars, who graduated in 2019, organized Engaging Mental Health in People of Color (EMPOC) as their transformation project to raise awareness of mental health issues in people of color. EMPOC became a student organization after the 2019 cohort graduated.
The BOLD Women’s Leadership Network was founded in 2016 by President Shirley M. Collado when she was executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer at Rutgers University–Newark. The program was first brought to Ithaca College in 2017 when Collado became president of the college.
BOLD is a scholarship for female-identifying juniors and seniors that aims to empower women in higher education. The program does this by promoting courage, authenticity and vision, BOLD Program Director Sam Bobbe said. The Class of 2020 is the second class of BOLD Scholars at the college and is comprised of eight seniors: Clare Nowalk, Breana Nieves Vergara, Markiesha Morgan, Kelly Madden, Ashae Forsythe, Audrianna Evelyn, Diana Castillo and Calissa Brown.
Nowalk said the scholars chose to organize Project Embolden because they wanted to create a connection between the college and the greater Ithaca area while providing career mentoring for high school students. The program will pair a mentor from Project Embolden to two or three 11th and 12th–grade students at New Roots Charter School.
New Roots Charter School was chosen for the program because its values align with the values of BOLD, said Michael Mazza, director of community engagement at New Roots Charter School. The school’s mission is to “prepare a diverse student body to embrace the opportunities of citizenship, work, and life-long learning in the 21st century,” according to its website.
“The BOLD scholars are great examples for our growing changemakers, demonstrating what powerful citizenship looks like at the university level,” Mazza said. “New Roots Charter School is honored to participate with IC’s BOLD program.”
Nowalk said the scholars’ goal with the program is to help students make informed decisions about their lives after high school. They plan to achieve their goal by presenting students with a variety of post-high school options including higher education, military service and entering the workforce.
“Students should have agency and choice in their decisions to pursue life after high school,” Nowalk said. “They should feel empowered in whatever they choose to do and be happy with that decision.”
Bobbe said the scholars plan to hold professional development workshops for the high schoolers in which professionals will be brought in to teach students career skills. They are also hoping to organize a conference that will be open to Ithaca High School as well as New Roots Charter School, Bobbe said. This conference would have representatives from colleges and vocational schools as well as employers and military recruiters. Bobbe said they also hope to have a variety of speakers presenting at the conference.
The program has not begun yet because the scholars are still waiting to receive approval for their grant proposal to the Pussycat Foundation, which sponsors BOLD, Bobbe said. The grant will be used to transport mentors to the high school and transport the high school students to any events or trips organized by Project Embolden.
Along with finalizing the grant, the scholars are also still organizing the mentors. Vergara said over 40 students signed up to be mentors at college’s organization fair Sept. 4. The group’s original goal was 20 mentors.
Although BOLD is a program for female-identifying students, all students regardless of their gender identities can participate in Project Embolden. Bobbe said one concern she has is that the program has not had much engagement from male-identifying students and that this may affect male high school students who would prefer male mentors.
Bobbe she said hopes the scholars can begin mentoring at New Roots Charter School during the second block of the fall semester, which starts Oct. 21. The program will continue throughout the academic year, but Nowalk said the scholars are hoping that Project Embolden will continue even after their cohort graduates in May. Bobbe said she is planning to look into this possibility through funding through the Center for Civic Engagement. The scholars have already begun fundraising in hopes of replacing the grant funding next year. The scholars have a fundraiser at Panera Bread scheduled for Sept. 30 and another at Chipotle on Nov. 18. They are also in the process of scheduling a fundraiser at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Students who wish to get involved with Project Embolden can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.