The suffrage parades of the early 20th century; the image of Rosie the Riveter, muscles flexed, the words, “We Can Do It,” scrawled above her; Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinhem and Germaine Greer: All are symbols of the feminist movement that’s occurred in our country over the last century, and all remind us of just how far women’s rights have come.Susan Grabowski and Jennifer Shiley believe there is still much work to be done. This summer, they will host Young Elites, a free, one-week leadership forum for selected high school girls. Grabowski and Shiley hope this summit will serve “as a training ground to build young women into leaders who will enter college ready to lead.” Grabowski and Shiley, both of Cornelius, connected two years ago, when Shiley was a teacher at Davidson Day. Grabowski, 50, was impressed with how Shiley, 33, connected with her teenage students and her methods for unearthing their leadership potential. “We kept talking and talking about our hopes for girls, and became good friends in the process,” Grabowski said. It was at this time that Grabowski, a business-owner and philanthropist, started to toy with the idea of starting a foundation – and she thought that Shiley would be the perfect person to lead it. She started the Grabowski Foundation in May 2012 and named Shiley as the director. In addition to raising awareness and supporting needs in our community, Grabowski thought, a girls’ sports camp would be the perfect way for Shiley – a former college athlete – to develop leadership potential. “We were hearing that it was hard to find young women with leadership potential at the college level,” said Grabowski. The idea morphed into Young Elites, which first took place last summer. The program, which occurred over the course of a week, was endorsed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and examined the principles of excellence, leadership, initiative, tenacity and execution.It also taught skill sets such as organization, presentation, debate, health and wellness and goal-setting. By both women’s accounts, the summit was an enormous success. “We had incredible feedback. Thirty girls went in and came out as changed women,” Grabowski said. They are now accepting applications for this summer’s forum, to be held June 17-21, and open to any girl regardless of economic background. “They’re going to be pushed out of their comfort zone, so that leadership potential can be developed,” said Shiley. “But they are also going to have a lot of fun.” In addition to physical challenges, there will also be breakout group discussions and a panel led by prominent local females, including Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain. “We want to be the spark of fire for these girls,” said Shiley, “and that’s what this whole week is about.”
Friday, Mar. 08, 2013
Summer program builds leadership
Founders Susan Grabowski, left, and Jennifer Shiley flank Grabowski's daughter, Jeanine, who received an ELITE award at last year's Young Elites leadership summit.
A group plays flag football during last summer's program at Davidson Day School.
Want to go? Young Elites will be held June 17-21 at Davidson Day School, 750 Jetton St., Davidson. Admission to the free program is granted through an application process. Early decision deadline is March 31, and regular decision is April 30. For information or an application, go to www.grabowskifoundation.org.