When Bridget Warlea visited Liberia, her home country, on a trip during high school, she fed her lifelong passion for female empowerment by teaching women about sexual health.
“I loved it,” said Warlea, a sophomore legal studies and financial planning major. “I’ve always wanted to go back to that aspect of my passion because I feel like girls are sometimes left out in the struggle.”
Warlea is also the president of WERise Temple, the newest chapter of the WERise Network, or Women Everywhere Rise. The WERise Network is a part of WEBelieve — an organization that began two years ago with a mission to address opportunity gaps for young women of color.
WEBelieve, or “Women Everywhere Believe,” was started by students at Columbia University. They started the organization after they learned the Obama administration passed My Brother’s Keeper, a program that address opportunity gaps for young men of color, said Oten Iban, the organization’s director of innovation and strategy and a junior at Columbia.
“[WEBelieve] was founded on [the] vision of creating a nonprofit that would serve young women in the community who maybe had limited resources, essentially closing the achievement gap of young women of color,” Iban added.
When Warlea found out about the WERise Network, she said it was exactly what she had been waiting for.
Warlea has already met with six local schools to discuss the organization’s Dare to Dream program, an eight-week program that mentors young girls about leadership through various different training programs.
The Dare to Dream program was the first initiative of WEBelieve, and it began at the Democracy Prep Charter School in Harlem, New York with 15 middle school-aged girls.
Iban said there are three classes in the program, the first being the core program which focuses on setting goals and learning about important historical figures. The second class stresses the importance of having a positive mindset and trying to maintain good mental health, and the last is the STEM to beauty program, which teaches girls of color about the science of their hair and how to take care of it, Iban said.
Temple’s chapter of WERise will mentor students from Dunbar Promise Academy on 12th Street near Montgomery Avenue.
“I have seen a whole lot of excitement not only from the students, but also from the principals who I’ve spoken to,” Warlea said. “I’ve spoken in depth with principals of different races and different genders that are very excited about bringing this into North Philadelphia and bringing this to the girls because it’s something that’s really necessary but hasn’t really been initiated.”
The WERise Network was the second initiative of WEBelieve. It allows students from other schools to apply to be part of WEBelieve, start their own chapters and teach the Dare to Dream program at local middle schools. Schools that are part of the WERise Network are Howard University, University of Pittsburgh and now Temple.
“Temple’s chapter is different in the fact that we already have long-standing relationships with these schools that I met with,” Warlea said. “They all know about the great work that we do, and they’re all really inspired by our initiative to be involved in the community and do mentorship and other things.”
WEBelieve hosted an event called “Her Legacy Conference & Gala” on Friday and Saturday at Columbia University. The event showcased the accomplishments of women and celebrated their achievements. All members from the WERise Network attended, including the six members of Temple’s chapter.
“I’m very excited,” Warlea said. “I expect to meet amazing, beautiful, successful women of all ages and all identities.”
“I think women of color are a special group that is often underlooked in the women’s movement or in the fight for racial justice,” Warlea said. “I’m very happy to have something tailored to serving them.”
Taylor Horn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, it was listed that Warlea visited Nigeria. It was Liberia. Also, the previous version of the caption on the picture listed the girls in the photo as, from left to right, Shannon Wilson, Danielle Hardy, Bridget Warlea, Faithe Beadle and Madina Kora. The girls in the photo were actually, from left to right, Madina Kora, Danielle Hardy, Shannon Wilson, Bridget Warlea and Faithe Beadle.