A look back on the history of our Howard County program

For more than 60 years, Maryland Leadership Workshops (MLW) has empowered young minds to recognize and realize their leadership potential through workshops and week-long summer camps. Now, we’re looking back at how one of MLW’s most specialized programs—Journey—grew out of a unique partnership.

In 2006, the Women’s Giving Circle (WGC) of Howard County—a group of female philanthropists at the Community Foundation who pool their resources in order to make a larger impact on the women and girls in their community—wanted to find a new way to empower young girls.

“The WGC wanted to create a program that would support the girls in Howard County,” explained Marcy Leonard, who is a member of WGC and was a member of the board of directors for MLW at the time. “We saw a connection between the goals of WGC and MLW and decided to look into a partnership. That’s how the Journey program was born.”

The new, week-long residential summer camp was opened to Howard County’s middle school girls. The students who participate come from diverse backgrounds and varying socioeconomic status. The robust scholarship fund created by WGC ensures that participation is not limited to those who can afford it.

“Those early teen years are really critical,” said Barb Van Winkle, chair of the WGC Advisory Board. “At that age, girls need to feel comradery among other girls their own age, learn about themselves, develop their strengths, and build self-esteem. Journey is a wonderful and safe environment for girls of all different backgrounds to come together and learn and grow with one another.”

In addition to learning about themselves, Journey instills in girls the ideals and values that guide WGC.

“Though the program varies year to year, there are important themes that are constant,” continued Marcy. “Female empowerment, effective communication and leadership skills, and diversity and inclusion are really consistent pieces that help us build female leaders that will have the confidence to empower and engage other women in the future.”

Journey teaches these themes by focusing on the positive examples that surround the girls—the women of Howard County. As part of the curriculum, Journey delegates research local women who are positively impacting their community and honor these women with an award ceremony at the end of the camp. Honorees share their stories of struggle and success, inspiring the young girls to pursue their own dreams.

The success of Journey is not only evident by the roughly 400 young women it has affected, but the program has also been recognized by Howard County as part of the county’s Celebrating Successes for Children program. Journey received this honor for being exceptional in the promotion of diversity and inclusion among both delegates and staff.

“I am very proud of Journey and the power it has to affect our community,” said Barb. “I see these young women who are so bright, and they’ve met every challenge, learned to live with other people and work together, and learned about themselves inside. It’s empowering for me to know this is the future generation of younger women who are coming up, and I’m very encouraged by that.”

To learn more about the Journey program or to apply for the Summer 2019 camp, visit mlw.org/summer-programs.