Lauren Stone began her college career at the University of Kentucky. After graduating from high school in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, she felt she was ready to move away from the Pittsburgh region and begin a new chapter.
But she quickly realized that, as a college student discovering her passions, a large school far from home wasn’t the answer. She transferred to Point Park University as a sophomore, looking for a small school and the opportunity to be more connected to the people around her. That’s when she found Strong Women, Strong Girls.
“I was looking for a way to help out, gain a larger friend group, and also do work with kids at the same time, and [SWSG] was kind of a perfect fit,” said Lauren.
A few weeks into Lauren’s first semester as a mentor for girls at Providence Family Support Center, the mentor who served as the Site Leader had to step back from SWSG to focus on school work. By default, Lauren became the Site Leader.
“It was a lot,” said Lauren. “But knowing the girls were so excited to come for mentoring every week was comforting for me. It’s one of those things where you look forward to it every week for me and for the girls, so since we’re both looking forward to it, it’s more than just a mentoring session.”
Though mentoring is one of Lauren’s favorite weekly commitments, it’s far from her only responsibility. In addition to classes that will earn her a Public Relations and Advertising degree, she’s in the midst of an advertising competition, has an internship near her home, works in the HR office at Point Park, and has a job at Sienna Mercato, a nearby restaurant.
The hours Lauren spends each week preparing for her mentoring session at Sarah Heinz House, where she’s again the Site Leader; carrying out the session; and fulfilling other SWSG chapter duties don’t feel like a burden because she wants to be there, making a difference for her mentees.
“I just want them to be able to grow up and see that they have the ability to go to college or technical school or anything that they want to do,” said Lauren. “I want them to ignore the people that are saying ‘you can’t do this.’”
She sees the value in conducting SWSG programming in Pittsburgh communities, because it’s clear that many of the girls in the program haven’t been exposed to the same opportunities Lauren had growing up. She wants to close that gap.
In fact, Lauren’s ultimate goal is to expand SWSG beyond Pittsburgh to other cities. After graduation in just a few short months, she plans to move to Kentucky, where she wants to start working in or with the non for profit sector and learning about nonprofit management. Eventually, she hopes she can start a program similar to SWSG in her new city and create an impact for children there.
“I think it can be really good for girls in other cities, and I just want to see what it’s like to be able to build another community like we did,” said Lauren.
Lauren’s passion for SWSG has been evident since she volunteered to take on the Site Leader role in her first semester as a mentor. Since then, she’s developed relationships with many girls and still knows her first mentees’ names. As she leaves college and builds her future, she’ll carry the mission of SWSG with her and spread it wherever she goes.