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Ann Richards Students Prepare for Leadership Success; New Partnership Connects University to Community

The first class of students enrolling at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders are learning about issues from health to leadership as part of a Summer Transition Camp.

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AUSTIN, Texas—The first class of students enrolling at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders are learning about issues from health to leadership as part of a Summer Transition Camp.

Darlene Grant, associate dean of graduate studies at The University of Texas at Austin, will lead the "Our Rights and Our Voices" portion of the camp at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, June 13, at 2206 Prather Lane. Grant, an associate professor of social work, researches the recruitment and retention of traditionally underrepresented populations in higher education.

More than half of the Ann Richards School’s entering students are Hispanic and about 13 percent are African American.

The university’s Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and the school have entered into a three-year partnership to provide curricular support and conduct research on issues such as the effects of a single-sex educational environment, leadership and civic participation, and science, technology, engineering and math concepts.

The center, which brings together 250 faculty members from across campus, will provide curriculum and program support to the school for sixth through 12th grade students. In addition, university students will gain research and educational experiences through internship programs at the school.

"Our work with the school will deepen our understanding of the challenges that girls and women face as they strive to succeed," Gretchen Ritter, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, said. "The partnership will support the school’s mission to provide young women with the skills and self-confidence they need to complete school, attend college, and become leaders in their chosen fields."

In 2005, former Texas Governor Ann Richards taught the university’s "Women, Life and Leadership" course, which posed the question, "What does it take to make a leader?" and explored the unique challenges and opportunities facing women and how women resolve conflicts imposed by personal and societal traditions.

At the time of her death in 2006, Richards was involved in preparations for the opening of the new Ann Richards School, which is dedicated to providing students with a rigorous education in a supportive environment. Richards was a strong advocate for public education’s role in ensuring opportunity and equality for all people.

"The university’s on-going research will allow us to make program changes as needed-instead of waiting until our girls graduate to understand their academic needs," Jeanne Goka, principal at the Ann Richards school, said.

"Our girls also will benefit from being a part of a working collaboration, recognizing that people and institutions must work as a group to solve problems and improve the world," she said. "Collaborating is a critical element of leadership and there is nothing more effective than to walk our own talk by modeling what we teach."

Pat Forgione, Austin Independent School District superintendent emphasized the importance of providing teachers with the tools to prepare students for college at an early age.

"Not only will this partnership give our students a very close connection with a major university so they will be primed for college the minute they enter sixth grade, but it also will help our educators develop the most effective teaching strategies to prepare young women for college and career success in all fields," Forgione said. "These are lessons we can then apply to teaching our young women students in all our secondary schools."

The School Partnership Advisory Group will review the partnership’s projects and provide annual presentations to the faculty, parents and community groups.

For more information about the university’s research on women’s issues, visit Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. Learn more about the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders.

Interviews with Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders Representatives: Contact Brenda Thompson, advisory board member, Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, at 512-916-8156 or brenda@brendathompson.com; and Geoff Rips, director of special projects and foundation development, Austin Independent School District, at 512-414-0054 or grips@austinisd.org.

For more information contact: Carol Petrucci, program coordinator, Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, 512-731-5491; Christian Clarke Cásarez, director of public affairs, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-4945.