Given the need for cultivating strong young women leaders, the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) and the Girl Scouts have come together to create new, dynamic leadership experiences specifically designed to nurture young women. These programs are a culmination of years of research on women’s leadership, leadership development, and youth development.


  • Studies have shown that girls experience a dramatic drop in confidence at the onset of adolescence.
  • CCL has demonstrated powerful results with our research-driven early leadership development work for youth.
  • In 2014 and 2015, CCL collaborated with local Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont council to develop customized programming for 100 middle and high school-aged young women called the Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI).
  • This paper tells the story of those programs, highlighting each of the 4 sessions.
  • The authors and program staff model the themes of YWLI by sharing our own stories of connection.
  • We hear directly from the girls on the impact of this work, and make a strong case for robust growth and support of this initiative and others like it.


Val Swan’s experience spans over 2 decades of diverse work in not-for-profit, academic, health care, legal, and corporate spheres. Val has proven a deep commitment to fostering quality of life improvements across the socioeconomic spectrum. Her interest in this area was formalized with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Arizona and later expanded to include health, community and youth leadership. Val has a natural enthusiasm for communications and building relationships, and excels connecting people and ideas. She is currently director of the Young Women’s Leadership Institute with the Girl Scouts, and senior program manager for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Executive Nurse Fellows program.

Sarah Miller, MA, works in organizational development at Red Hat in Raleigh, NC, and is a contractor with CCL’s Leadership Beyond Boundaries initiative. Since 2009 she has served many roles at CCL in the innovation and design space, serving as lead architect of the early leadership toolkit, design and delivery faculty for many leadership development programs in the US and abroad, and project and business development for a wide variety of clients. Sarah has worked with the Young Women’s Leadership Program and Girl Scouts since 2009. She received her MA in history from University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and her BA in Psychology and History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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