ANNELISE GILBERT ’17
On the weekend of Nov. 12-13 members of Trinity’s chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority partnered with the GIRLS Leadership Academy to host an overnight program for middle school students. “GIRLS” stands for “girls inspiring respect, leadership, and service,” and many other chapters of Kappa Kappa Gamma across the country host similar events with the GIRLS Leadership Academy. The program took place at East Hartford Middle School and included activities such as round table discussions, breakout sessions, and a number of other leadership-oriented activities. It was hosted by Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Trinity chapter, Greater Hartford Alumnae Association, and national headquarters, and sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts and ShopRite.
The Tripod spoke with Kappa Kappa Gamma member Nia Vogel ’18, who was heavily involved with planning the overnight program.
Trinity Tripod: It took three years of planning and fundraising for the event to happen. How involved were the current and past members of Trinity’s chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma in this process?
Nia Vogel: About three years ago, an active member applied to have our chapter selected as one of the facilitators for GIRLS Academy. I’m not sure what kind of involvement active members had after the application process until last spring. Our alumni advisors reached out to Austen Peterson ’17, our Philanthropy Chair, to help with the coordination in the last few months leading up to the event. However, Austen was really busy with her senior year, her other involvements on campus and Kappa. I volunteered to help Austen coordinate the event in order to help take some stress off of her plate. In addition to myself, the entire event was run mostly by our active members. Our chapter members worked directly with the girls doing small group workshops, skills-based activities, doing set-up/clean-up, and even doing the “Juju on the Beat” with the girls. I’m so happy with the amount of involvement we had. Almost our entire chapter went to the graduation ceremony on the Sunday morning.
TT: What were your goals going into the event?
NV: My personal goal was to have the event run as seamlessly as possible. Thankfully, it did! The goal of the program itself is to help give middle school girls a voice for one weekend. We lead different leadership and goal-oriented workshops for the girls and they had an open forum to share whatever they felt necessary. I think the girls really embraced the opportunity they were given. It was honestly astounding to hear some of the comments they made regarding confidence, self-image, bullying, etc. I think the girls we worked with are wise beyond their years.
TT: How do you think the event went?
NV: I think the event went really well. Just like putting on a play, sometimes the behind-the-scene logistics felt a little more jumbled than they probably were, but we put on an amazing show. The girls learned a lot and I’m excited to receive their post-event evaluations in the upcoming week.
TT: What did members of Kappa Kappa Gamma take away from the event?
NV: I think that we all forget what it’s like to be in middle school. As cliche as it sounds, middle school can be some of the best times of your life, but also some of the worst. I think our chapter members left more inspired after working with the girls.
TT: What do you think the middle school participants took away from the event?
NV: I think the middle school girls learned that everything they have to say is important. Because the whole weekend was about the middle school girls, they always had our undivided attention. Whether they were participating in a discussion or even making a joke during lunch, we were there to listen. Middle school is always so competitive so I think it was nice that each girl had at least a little time in the spotlight.
TT: Do you feel this event helped strengthen ties between Trinity and the greater Hartford community?
NV: I do think this helped strengthen ties with the community! The principal of the middle school was so grateful that EHMS (East Hartford Middle School) was chosen for this event and I know he already wants us to do another weekend. He was really impressed that we devoted a weekend to GIRLS Academy. Hopefully we can continue the connection we have made!
Many members of Kappa who participated had great things to say about the event. Megan Tighe ’17, who served as a small group facilitator and participated in the leadership board at the event, reflected on the weekend, “I think that the middle school girls were able to see real-life college women in a supportive setting, so when we talked about college and their futures it seemed more attainable because we were able to relate to them.”
Thinking forward on how to maintain Kappa’s relationship with the middle school, Tighe said, “It was a really cool experience, and we definitely want to follow up with the middle school in the future. We talked about doing other philanthropy events at the middle school because part of the GIRLS Academy is to maintain contact with the participants following the event.”
Tighe also discussed how missing out on events on campus for one weekend was a small sacrifice by saying, “Although it is difficult to give up a fun weekend at college, events like these demonstrate another great way to spend and enjoy a weekend doing something fun that gives back to the community.”
ANNELISE GILBERT ’17