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For Girls in Grades 3-5

SWSG empowers elementary-school girls with new skills, strong role models, and female community.

For College Women

SWSG mentors are leaders on their campuses, role models to girls, and members of a supportive female community. Strong Women, Strong Girls Pittsburgh partners with six institutions of higher education to leverage the time, energy, and talent of college undergraduate women. Through these partnerships, Strong Women, Strong Girls engages mentors to volunteer at program sites in their community.

  • Carlow University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Duquesne University
  • Point Park University
  • Robert Morris University
  • University of Pittsburgh
For Professional Women

Without Strong Women in the professional Pittsburgh community, our multigenerational mentoring model doesn’t work. We need Strong Women to support our college mentors.

Thank You to Our Sponsors

Our Story

Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) is a multi-generational mentorship organization that connects professional women, college women, and elementary school girls. We champion the aspirations and promote the potential of girls from under-resourced communities through innovative mentorship programming.

Every week, we bring college women mentors together with girls in grades 3-5 at program sites around the Pittsburgh area. Using our unique, skill-building curriculum, mentors and mentees explore the stories of strong female role models and engage in growth-fostering activities and discussions. Our college women also build strong mentoring relationships with professional women, known as Strong Leaders, through one-on-one matches and Group Mentoring events.

Harvard University freshman Lindsay Hyde founded SWSG in Boston in 2000. The organization expanded to Pittsburgh in 2006, with Carnegie Mellon University as the only area college chapter and just two program sites. Today, SWSG Pittsburgh has grown to include six college chapters and operates in 40 sites across the region, serving more than 700 girls annually.

Our Pittsburgh Purpose

Meet the demand for women’s leadership opportunities.

Engage Pittsburgh’s robust college student population in service while exposing them to the neighborhoods and assets of Pittsburgh.

Provide much needed gender-specific programming for elementary age girls in under-resourced communities.

200 college mentors from six college chapters are empowering over 700 girls at 40 program sites.

Regional Board

Laura Freedman, Partner, Southpointe Wealth Management of UBS Financial Services - Regional Board Chair

Lori Benvenuto, Partner, Ernst & Young

Nicole Bechtold, JD, Attorney, Reed Smith

Hank Cochran, Director, Financial Accounting Services and Support, Arconic

Louise Herrle, Managing Director, Capital Markets, Incapital

Kathleen Lovett, Senior Director, Global IT Integrations, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Beth Marcello, Women’s Business Development Director, PNC

Michele McGough, President & CEO, Solutions4networks

Lee Ann Munger, Development Officer, United Way Women's Leadership Council

Toni Murphy, VP, Comcast Business Keystone Region

Cristina Ruggiero, Executive Director, National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh Section

Dawn Sauter, Founder, Workscape Inc.

Rochelle Seideneck, VP, Grocery Merchandising, Giant Eagle, Inc.

Linda Sirianni, Manager, Innovation, Compliance & Process, FedEx

Brendan Surma, Principal, Furnace Run Ventures LLC

Tim Wesley, VP, Investor Relations & Corp. Comm., Wabtec Corp.

Latasha Wilson-Batch, Executive Director, Best of the Batch Foundation

Pittsburgh Team

Jocelyn Horner

Executive Director

Prior to joining Strong Women, Strong Girls, Dr. Horner received her doctorate from Tulane University’s interdisciplinary City, Culture and Community program, with a concentration in Social Work. Her research examined innovative strategies for promoting social-emotional wellness among adolescent women exposed to risk or trauma.  While pursuing her doctorate, Dr. Horner also founded HerStory NOLA, a mentorship project that leveraged college women as mentors to teach the art and skill of digital storytelling to young women and girls in New Orleans’ schools and youth centers.

In 2014, she was a recipient of Tulane University’s Changemaker Catalyst award as well as a NewDay Challenge grant for her work with HerStory. Dr. Horner has also presented nationally and internationally at academic conferences on HerStory’s unique model of youth development.  She received her Masters of Science in Urban Geography from the London School of Economics in 2007, and her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Urban Studies from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005. She was a 2004 National Truman Scholar.

“I am beyond excited to be returning to Pittsburgh to join the team at Strong Women, Strong Girls,” Dr. Horner said. “For over a decade, SWSG and its partners have worked to ensure that young women and girls can grow to their fullest potential by providing unique opportunities for positive support, skills development and mentorship. I look forward to continuing this work and to expanding our impact in the region. An investment in girls is an investment in our collective future.”

Dr. Horner has also served as the lead staff member for the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s Charm Bracelet Project and the Director of Operations for Carnegie Mellon University’s Hear Me initiative. In addition, she has worked directly with diverse groups of women, girls, and children as a career mentor, volunteer coach, teacher, and Big Sister. A proud native of Pittsburgh’s Northside, she spends her free time running on the city’s river trails, watching Steelers games, and cooking vegetarian food for her friends and family.

Laura Pollanen

Senior Program Manager

Born in Rochester NY, Laura moved to Pittsburgh to attend the University of Pittsburgh, where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Political Science. In October of 2009, Laura joined AmeriCorps through the Public Allies Pittsburgh program. She served for two years as the Volunteer and Logistics Coordinator with the Power of 32 – a regional visioning project joining 32 counties across 4 states. Immediately after her term of service, Laura worked for Public Allies Pittsburgh as a Program Manager, coaching three classes of new leaders, training on leadership development, and collaborating with over 50 nonprofits across Pittsburgh. She has been award the Get Involved! Inc Rising Star award, and nominated for Goodwill’s Power of Work award. She is a regular volunteer in her home of Bellevue.

Laura at lpollanen(at)
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Raenelle Lowery

Program Coordinator

Raenelle Lowery joined Strong Women, Strong Girls in September 2015 as a Program Associate and AmeriCorps volunteer. She served SWSG through a Public Allies Apprenticeship for the 2015-16 program year and was hired as a Program Coordinator in the summer of 2016. A Pittsburgh native, the majority of her life has been centered around the east end. She has served as an academic tutor and mentor at Lincoln Elementary School and strives to be a resource and positive role model within her community. Raenelle studied International Relations at the Penn State University from 2011-13. Her passion for service influenced her decision to join Public Allies during the 2014-15 program year. During this time, she served as a Women’s Resource Center Coordinator with the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh, where she provided hundreds of women with support in accessing critical resources. Upon completion of her term with SWSG, Raenelle plans to complete her studies in International Relations and Women’s Studies.

Kelsey WAros
Kelsey Waros

Program Associate for Site Quality & Performance

Kelsey Waros joined SWSG as Program Associate for Site Quality and Performance in January of 2017. Kelsey comes to SWSG from a background in nonprofits. Prior to joining the SWSG team, Kelsey served as Communications Coordinator and Youth Leader at the Wilkinsburg Youth Project through Americorps. Her experience with Americorps solidified her career path in serving the communities of Pittsburgh. Kelsey has a wide range of experiences including working with the homeless population in Washington D.C. and teaching high school youth about gentrification trends through a global service learning nonprofit.  She is passionate about fair trade practices and sustainability, and hopes to assist in creating a culture of empowerment, value, and mutual respect for women everywhere. Graduating in 2014 with a degree in Strategic Communication, she hopes to continue her education and major in International Development with a focus in International Organization Management.

Email Kelsey at [email protected]

Kelsey at [email protected]
Kimmi Baston
Kimmi Baston

Communications and Special Projects Associate

Before joining Strong Women, Strong Girls in December 2017, Kimmi Baston served as a communications professional in Clinical Marketing at UPMC. She graduated from Waynesburg University in April 2017 with a degree in journalism, marketing, and public relations after spending two years as the Executive Editor of Waynesburg’s national award-winning student newspaper. Kimmi’s time at Waynesburg secured her passion for both communications and service, which she seeks to combine in her work today. She spent three college breaks on domestic and international service trips with the school, in addition to engaging in a mission trip with her home church each summer for the last 12 years. Kimmi is a lifelong volunteer in her home town of North Huntingdon, PA.

“My Professional mentor helped me identify various professional goals, and she even wrote me a letter of recommendation for a great internship.”

- Megan Steinmetz, Carnegie Mellon University

“There was not a day that I left my site uninspired.”

- Kayla Serrano, Carnegie Mellon University

“SWSG is a very rewarding experience for both mentors and mentees. I enjoy being a part of the greater SWSG community in Pittsburgh and feeling supported by everyone.”

- Katherine Du, Carnegie Mellon University

“…one of the girls said…she now feels like a “strong and powerful black woman!” And has dreams of creating a career for herself.”

- Breeann Wilson, Point Park University

I watched many of my mentees gain confidence and learn to believe in themselves throughout the semester.

- Ashley Puchalski, University of Pittsburgh