“We are the ones we have been waiting for” is a very powerful statement Jacqueline Glass has taken to heart. Glass founded At The Well Conferences, Inc. (ATW), a nonprofit organization, in 2009 as a means to empower women of color and improve their socio-economic status. Programs include At the Well Leadership Conferences for both minority girls and women and At the Well Young Women’s Leadership Academy for minority girls at the prestigious institutes of Princeton University and Swarthmore College.
As a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Glass’s mission to help the next generation is personal.
“I was inspired to create this because of my daughter Nicole,” she told us. “Nicole was an outstanding student academically but did not test well on standardized exams. The first summer Academy we did provided significant SAT and ACT Prep classes. The program then grew into providing leadership development, due to the lack of women leaders in many business settings. The Academy began offering leadership development workshops and honed students’ critical thinking skills by emphasizing advanced reading and writing courses. I began to see the experiences of my daughter in each and every girl that attended the Academy. To date, I am proud to say 100% of the Academy alumni have been accepted to college.”
But the Academy offers much more than academics. Many students come to the program wounded by negative experiences that stem from isolation in predominantly white learning environments or teasing due to their gender, race and/or intelligence. To address these challenges, the Academy includes discussions on micro-aggressions, bullying, and various forms of discrimination. To facilitate these topics, ATW brings in powerful celebrity speakers, like Yandy Smith and Nicole Ari Parker, who resonate with teen girls of color. Glass shared with us how she is able to give back in such a major way.
Madame Noire (MN): Once the idea for such a program came alive, how did university become involved?
Jacqueline Glass (JG): The inaugural Leadership Conference was held on April 18, 2009, in Princeton, NJ and a second event convened on October 17, 2009, in New York. The latter gathering included the first At the Well Teen Girls Conference for girls ages 13 to 18. Out of demand, a second teen conference was held the next year on April 17, 2010, at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a third installment occurred on April 9, 2011.
In the fall of 2011, out of a need to improve the leadership and standardized test taking skills of girls, At the Well programming was expanded to include the two-week boarding Academy on the campus of Princeton University. In 2014, ATW partnered with the U. S. Embassy in Jamaica and other sponsors to enable 11 Jamaican students to join the 2014 class. In 2016, ATW established a 9th Grade Weekend Intensive that focused on the unique needs of eighth and ninth grade students. Simultaneously, ATW expanded its program to Swarthmore College, which mimics the Princeton University program.
Now, in 2017, ATW is entering its seventh year of operations with programs at Swarthmore College and Princeton University.
MN: How important is it for Black girls to experience learning on this level?
JG: Nicole had endured many challenges as the only person of color in the all-white spaces where she attended school. The disconnect from one’s culture, I believe, leads to lower self-value and self-worth. At The Well inspires the girls to feel empowered and promotes self-esteem while encouraging academic achievement.
MN: How is ATW different from any other program of its kind?
JG: ATW is unique because it is one of the few summer enrichment programs for minority girls on the campus of an Ivy League school devoted to leadership development. The tuition is also much lower than other comparable programs. At the Well has a proven track record of success as girls leave the program empowered as leaders. We have seen so many transformations in the course of two weeks. Often, shy students blossom into leaders, and those with natural leadership abilities become laser focused on career goals. Additionally, At the Well offers a financial aid boot camp of which alumni have utilized to receive full college scholarships.
Our program is also unique in that we offer a safe space for girls to communicate their stories in a nurturing and healing atmosphere without judgment. Because of the welcoming atmosphere, students easily create lasting bonds with fellow attendees who share the same experiences.
MN: What can candidates do to make their application stand out?
JG: Candidates should focus on creating a thoughtful and well-written essay. Great essays stand out. We can glean so much into the character and ambition of a student by a well-written essay.
The March 31 deadline for the next academy has been extended to the end of April. Interested applicants can apply online.