A new organization, called the Leadership League of Women (LLOW), has started on campus to help foster relationships between William Smith and Geneva High School women. Founded by junior Virginia DeWees ’16, the initiative is dedicated to assisting women leaders in Geneva through mentorship, collaboration, and community outreach.
LLOW is sponsored by the William Smith Deans Office through the Laurel Society, the honor society for William Smith sophomores and juniors which is advised by William Smith Associate Dean Lisa Kaenzig. DeWees founded the initiative this semester after a meeting of the Laurel Society during which Kaenzig asked for proposals the group could organize as a collective for future semesters. DeWees’ proposal for LLOW received the most interest and votes among the Laurels.
LLOW’s main goal is to “create relationships with like-minded women and foster trust, support, and mentorship while building and practicing leadership skills.” The group is meant to create a collaborative environment to help women emerge as stronger leaders, and to mentor high school women. Sydney Mittiga, a ninth-grader at Geneva High School, serves as a co-coordinator.
“My idea for LLOW ignited through my passion for connecting with young people,” says DeWees.
“When I began to think about colleges and my future, I always thought it would have been nice to have someone who was interested in the same things as me to help me through the aches, pains, and triumphs of being a young woman leader in today’s society. I decided to develop a program that would hopefully give a young woman in high school the support I always wanted when I was their age,” she says.
Mittiga welcomed the collaboration.
“I jumped on the opportunity to give back to my community and work with someone with so much passion as Virginia. We set up a meeting to talk about some logistics, but ended up planning far beyond the foundation for our league,” says Mittiga.
This semester, students from William Smith and Geneva High participated in a meet-and-greet gathering, which drew members from student government, numerous clubs, and several athletic teams. Next month, members will participate in the HWS Day of Service working at the Women’s Hall of Fame and have a team at Relay for Life. During Professional Development Day, LLOW members will participate in a roundtable discussion with women leaders, including Kaenzig and others from across the community.
“I was particularly excited because I live in Geneva and both of my daughters attend Geneva public schools. I knew, based on my own experiences, that this would be a wonderful opportunity for our high school students and our William Smith student leaders,” Kaenzig says.
Planning committee members include Emily Surprenant ’15, Haley Jackson ’17 and Geneva High ninth-grader Madison Kaenzig.
In the future, LLOW hopes to expand its reach beyond Laurel Society members.
“I believe LLOW is already having an impact, both in providing several of our Laurel Society members with amazing leadership opportunities and for our Geneva High School young women who are already gaining valuable skills and connections,” says Kaenzig. “This initiative is at the heart of what we do in the William Smith Dean’s office. Our entire mission is ‘women moving women up.’ I am thrilled to be a part of it.”
“As high school and college leaders, we are brought together by our passion for leadership and making a difference in the communities we are immersed in,” says DeWees. “Hobart and William Smith Colleges have always encouraged students to bridge the gap between HWS and the community. I believe LLOW is contributing to this goal.”
A writing and rhetoric major with a double minor in education and writing colleagues, DeWees is also vice president of the Pride Alliance, a co-coordinator of the PLEN chapter at William Smith, a writing colleague, and works in the William Smith Deans Office.
Mittiga is a member of the student council, Model UN, the school newspaper, Geneva Heroes, and her youth group. She is also treasurer of her class and participates in soccer, lacrosse, and ski club.
“For young women leaders, LLOW is a great opportunity to build long lasting relationships and grow within the organization. I know that this program will benefit many women.”
In the photo above, Virginia DeWees ’16 and Geneva High ninth-grader Sydney Mittiga, founders of the Leadership League of Women, meet outside of Smith Hall.