Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 32
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
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Minority Teen Girls Are the Focus At Upcoming Leadership Academy

Anne Levin

When it comes to minority teens and academic achievement, the statistics are troubling. According to the U.S. Department of Education, African Americans accounted for only 13.1 percent of the entire college enrollment in 2009. Nearly 40 percent of African Americans failed to graduate from high school on time, studies showed.

This doesn’t sit well with Jacqueline Glass. A 2003 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary who works as a court reporter and a part-time minister, Ms. Glass has organized a Leadership Academy this month for a selected group of minority teenage girls, to be held at Princeton University’s Carl A. Fields Center. The girls, who come from as near as Trenton and as far as Washington State, will hear speakers from the corporate world, learn how to write better college essays, practice yoga, and travel to Manhattan to see the Broadway show Memphis during their 10-day stay.

“These are high-achieving girls who come from the inner city, and we help them with issues of self-esteem, self-worth, and just trying to accomplish what they want to accomplish,” said Ms. Glass. “We have 30 who will be at the orientation, 98 percent of whom are on scholarship.”

Ms. Glass, who is African American, has experienced her own frustrations in the workplace. She has been a court reporter in New York City for more than two decades. While repeatedly trying to climb the ladder to a higher-ranking job, she has watched the positions go to others with lesser qualifications.

Instead of indulging in self-pity, Ms. Glass decided to put her experiences to work. In 2009, she founded At the Well Conferences, Inc., a non-profit organization geared to women, particularly those of color. The idea was to promote emotional, spiritual, physical and financial well-being, and help women achieve their goals. She has since organized three empowerment conferences; two at New York’s Union Theological Seminary and one on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary. Women and middle-school-aged girls have been the focus at these events.

Ms. Glass views the upcoming Leadership Academy for teenage girls as a kind of summer camp which she hopes will become a yearly event. Among the topics to be tackled is improving SAT scores.

“There is inequity in terms of test scores with African Americans and their Asian and Caucasian counterparts,” Ms. Glass said. “I’m learning that there are various reasons for that, among them that they were really not taught how to take a standardized exam. Some of the reasons are cultural. But the reality is that it’s going to be there for most colleges, in the decision whether to include or exclude them. I believe that education is going to be the major determining factor as to how far a child can go.”

Among the speakers at the Leadership Academy will be Sharon D’Agostino, a vice president at Johnson & Johnson. “I met her at a spiritual retreat in Princeton and was so impressed by her,” said Ms. Glass. “She’ll talk to the girls about authentic leadership. People literally love working for her because of her leadership style.”

Also scheduled is Reverend Toby Sanders, who is president of the Trenton Board of Education and a PhD candidate at Princeton University. He will teach the girls about writing successful college application essays. The speaker at the closing ceremony is Kathryn Freeland, president and chief executive officer of A-Tek Inc., a science and technology firm.

Ms. Glass hopes to attract corporate sponsorship for coming Leadership Academy sessions. She looks forward to retiring from her court reporting job in the next few years and focusing full-time on At the Well. “I’m redirecting my energies in a way to help somebody else,” she said. “Having started this a few years ago, I can now say that lives are being impacted by what we do. I’ve gotten positive feedback. The challenge now is tracking the progress. We’re going to follow these girls and see how they do.”

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