Students' Plan to Empower Middle Schoolers Gains National Recognition

Alex Langley & Becca Brune received funding for an empowerment project following their pitch at a national conference.

This spring Nebraska Wesleyan University students Alex Langley and Rebecca Brune will begin implementing a new program aimed at empowering middle school girls as they transition to high school.

But before the work even begins, the NWU seniors have already received national recognition and funding for the project they call Young Women’s Circles Program (YWCP).

Last month, Langley and Brune were two of four NWU students selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University, an annual conference that invites proactive undergraduate student leaders to discuss today’s most pressing global issues. Students who attend are required to develop a Commitment to Action, a detailed service project that addresses challenges on their campus, in the local community, or around the world.

Of the 700 Commitments to Action made by undergraduate students from across the country, 16 were awarded full project funding and support from the conference’s Resolution Project. The Resolution Project awards $100,000 to the top student commitment-makers.

Langley and Brune’s project was one of them.

They have partnered with the YWCA of Lincoln and the university’s Gender Advocacy Place to lead weekly two-hour sessions that will help empower middle school girls as they make their transition into high school.

With funding from the Resolution Project, Langley and Brune will not have to seek donations. The funding will be used to provide food and activity supplies for the five-week program, and will cover transportation costs for the middle school students attending the meetings.

Additionally Langley and Brune will receive a network of support from the Resolution Project, including two years of personal mentorship.

“Thanks to the Resolution Project, Alex and I are will be able to affect the lives of many more young women in Lincoln,” said Brune, a social work major from Lincoln. “When Alex and I were competing, we spoke with many women who said, ‘I wish I would have had something like that available to me when I was that age.’”

Langley believes the judges were impressed with their teamwork, commitment, and enthusiasm for empowering young women.

“The YWCP is a simple, sustainable program that will greatly impact the lives and futures of the young participants,” said Langley, a political science and Spanish major from Tekamah.

Nebraska Wesleyan students have shared successful Commitments to Action at previous CGIU conferences. Last year, for example, students Chelsea Johnson, Hannah Smith and Brune were recognized by former President Bill Clinton for their makeshift innovation on a project called “New Life For Old Bags.” Their project turns plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats for the homeless. The project continues today.

Brune said they left CGIU with an even stronger commitment to being community leaders.

“The event was full of passionate students,” she said. “Alex and I came away from CGIU with an increased skill set for managing our program as well as a wealth of information about our world’s most serious social issues.”