When Karishma Srikanth spotted the HERlead fellowship flyer hanging up in her English classroom junior year of high school, she applied on a whim. That ‘whim’ turned out to be “undeniably one of the single most transformative experience of my high school years,” she says of being accepted as a 2016 HERLead fellow.
Founded in 2011 through a partnership between Vital Voices Global Partnership and ANN Inc, parent company of Ann Taylor, LOFT and Lou & Grey, the HERlead fellowship works to empower teenage girls and give them leadership skills to influence global progress, participate in their communities and become the next generation of leaders. Or, as Srikanth says, it teaches you “how to be a leader and an agent for change.”
Srikanth, now a second year student at the University of Virginia, utilized her HERlead experience and grant to create PedPals, a pediatric cancer outreach initiative based on a youth platform of care packages and pen-pal letters. She credits her fellowship with being the catalyst for feeling empowered enough to pursue her work in the community.
“Before HERlead, I had so many ideas of ways to make an impact in my community, but I never knew how to execute them because the scope seemed too massive to bridge on my own,” said Srikanth. “It was this grant that taught me that making tangible change in the community is possible, and I learned so much about how to structure outreach initiatives.”
To make the seemingly impossible, possible, HERlead gives teenage girls access to training forums, grants and relationship building opportunities with peers and influential leaders across a wide range of industries. Over the past eight years, the HERlead fellowship has trained and mentored over 310 high school girls from across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, and funded 246 projects through grants in areas included economic empowerment, the environment, public health, political and public leadership, education and human rights. HERlead indicates that these projects have helped over 70,000 people in 20 countries.
Each year, the program selects 30 fellows that are sophomores and juniors in high school to attend their Leadership Forum, a four-day communication and leadership training conference located at Ann Brands’ headquarters in New York City. This year’s forum takes place from June 24-27.
“I think the HERlead Fellowship is looking for people whose passion for change and dedication are tangible,” Srikanth said. “They are looking for people who care deeply about the world, so I would say to anyone applying to just be true to yourself and what you care deeply about.”
Current 10th or 11th grade girls in high schools located in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico can apply here. Deadline is Friday, March 8.