“Today’s Future, Tomorrow’s Leaders” Brookline METCO holds hugely successful 10th Annual Women’s Leadership Retreat
In 2008 when he was coordinator of METCO at Brookline High School, Dr. Keith Lezama created the Woman’s Worth Leadership Retreat. Dr. Lezama organizes this retreat each year with the goal of supporting young Black and Latina women in their academic and social development so they can be inspired to turn their dreams into reality. The retreats have served to develop confident learners who strive for excellence in all aspects of their lives.
Each year the retreat includes engaging panel discussions that expose students to successful women of color. Additionally, workshops and activities are conducted that provide participants with strategies and tools they can utilize to overcome personal and social life challenges. The retreat was founded on the idea of Ubuntu, an African proverb meaning, “I am what I am because of who we all are.” This concept encourages individuals to pave a path for others to follow, and developing an understanding that they have a moral obligation and responsibility to give back to their respective communities.
10 years ago the event started with just a handful of seniors. Within a few years interest had grown so 9th, 10th, and 11th graders were included. This year, at the 10th retreat, more than 125 young women of color from grades eight through twelve participated Titled “Today’s Future, Tomorrow’s Leaders” the conference was made possible by generous contributions and the support of Brookline High School PTO and Emmanuel College
The day started with the “Phenomenal Panel” of women of color that included Nicole Gittens, Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Genteen Jean-Michel, principal of the Runkle School, Brookline High School graduate Taylor James, and Sarah Gonzalez, a clinical therapist and researcher from Columbia University. The panelists shared their stories of success and discussed their leadership roles and what ways Women of Color can continue to prosper as leaders in the communities they serve. Additionally, panelist answered questions from the students. Dr. Suzie Talukdar, interim principal of Driscoll School moderated the panel.
After the panel, attendees had a selection of workshops to choose from the day. Former BHS administrator, Dr. Chris Vick led a workshop showing the young women how to build their professional brand and how important it is to be thoughtful and strategic about how you present yourself to prospective schools and employers.
Jeffrey Smith, Jr., Director of Multicultural Studies at Emmanuel College led a workshop titled, “The Real Truth about College Seniors.” Emmanuel undergrad students shared stories and research about college student behavior related to sex, partying, drinking, and drugs in an effort to help the young women understand what they have to be aware of when they move on. Dr. Nakeisha Cody, the Associate Director of the African American Institute at Northeastern University presented about how women can work together to increase the number of both black and white women entrepreneurs and the lessons learned from successful entrepreneurs. During the afternoon workshops, 12th grade students facilitated discussions among their younger peers and the adults present.
Dr. Vick and Dr. Lezama, and Mr. Cradle former Associate Dean and now consultant to programs in Brookline facilitated Leadership Circles with younger students about developing a personal leadership style. Each student described how they have been learning about their personal leadership style and then led other students in the first steps their identifying and developing their own.
At the end of the day, Deputy Superintendent Nicole Gittens said proudly, “The event was an amazing opportunity for young women of color to come together to bond and learn from each other and from professional women of color. What was even more impactful is that men of color organized much of the event to honor the young women. A remarkable day.”