This blog is part of a series highlighting the exciting accomplishments of some of our outstanding Strong Women, Strong Girls’ alumnae. As SWSG turns 10 this year, we take a moment to reflect on the incredible support that got us to where we are today, while envisioning a strong, united future for the SWSG movement.
Isabel Kaplan graduated from Harvard in 2012 and mentored at the South Boston Neighborhood House. Her first novel, the LA Times bestselling Hancock Park, was published by HarperCollins in 2009 when she was only sixteen years-old. Currently, Isabel lives in Los Angeles, works in television development and programming at FOX, and is working on her second novel.
How did your experience with SWSG influence you?  
My experience with SWSG developed and deepened my appreciation of the importance of all-girls programming and the value of mentoring relationships, and it was incredible to discover that even though I was just eighteen and still in the process of growing up myself, I was capable of being a mentor…I was surprised and relieved to learn that I didn’t need to affect extra maturity in order to be a good mentor. My relationships with my mentees grew stronger when I stopped thinking that I needed to be serious in order to be taken seriously.
Do any specific memories stand out from your experience with SWSG?
My incredible co-mentors, Becky Malkin and Alyssa Colbert, played a major role in shaping my mentoring experience at the South Boston Neighborhood House. The service project was a highlight – it was exciting to see the girls taking ownership of it, brainstorming and building on each other’s ideas.
Were there any surprising challenges you encountered during your experience with SWSG?
Before I started mentoring, I had a hazy fantasy of a classroom of girls paying rapt attention as my co-mentors and I introduced a discussion topic or biography subject (and then, of course, the girls would raise their hands and contribute their thoughts one at a time). I had clearly forgotten what it’s like to be a 9, 10, or 11-year-old full of restless energy at the end of a school day. Through SWSG, I got better at thinking on my feet. I learned that being ready and able to improvise and adapt is just as important as having a well-prepared lesson plan. I also learned that the most important part of being a good mentor is consistency – that when it comes down to it, showing up every week and caring are the things that matter most.
As we celebrate our tenth birthday, what wishes do you have for SWSG over the next 10 years? 
This is just one of the many stories of strong women who have been passionately engaged with SWSG’s mission over the last ten years. Join us in celebrating our 10th birthday on June 2nd.

Rachel Van Beaver is a sophomore at Boston College majoring in Communications and joined the SWSG Boston team in January 2014. Her duties for the semester involve a range of tasks encompassing an emphasis on the empowerment of girls and women through the lens of different contexts and generations.