Cultivating Purpose In Girls Through Mentorship


In the last 10 years, I have noticed a major shift in the culture of secondary education, as driven by the college admissions process. This shift is not unique to the United States and can be felt throughout the world in an increasingly competitive global economy and given the demands of ever-increasing technological innovation.

Research suggests that the idea that every choice may impact college admissions and career trajectory is felt as early as eighth grade. This sense of pressure is evident in the day-to-day life of a school and is experienced by students, teachers, administrators and parents alike. This phenomenon is, arguably, even more uniquely experienced by adolescent girls.

As we close January’s National Mentorship Month, this conversation is particularly relevant. Research tells us that developing a sense of purpose can help combat anxiety. One way that we can help youth develop their sense of purpose is through the promotion of growth-fostering mentoring relationships. The benefits of mentoring relationships for adolescents are vast – providing the acceptance, inspiration and support needed to resist the pressure to be successful per extrinsic measures and to engage instead in a purpose that is more personally meaningful.

At the Academy of Our Lady of Peace, we host an annual Women’s Symposium that seeks to capitalize on the compelling research that indicates that the achievement pressure experienced by girls can be mitigated by providing access to role models and mentors. At this event, held this year on March 13, 2020, girls have the opportunity to hear from women leaders in our community, providing direct interaction with women professionals that may serve to facilitate the development of a mentoring relationship. Roundtable discussions allow several students at a time to have an intimate discussion with women professionals about their career trajectory and experiences.

It is incumbent on schools to partner with organizations in our community to unearth opportunities for mentorships and role models that all lend to the development of adolescent purpose. In turn, this work supports curricular objectives as students who know what they want out of life and see how what they are learning are likely to be highly motivated in the classroom.

The Sixth Annual OLP Women’s Symposium will be held on Friday, March 13, 2020. The event is open to the public. Please visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets:

Thank You to Our 2020 OLP Women’s Symposium Sponsors



Photo Captions

Haben Girma:

The 2020 OLPWS Keynote Speaker is Haben Girma, a disability rights advocate and the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School.

Photo 1:

2019 OLPWS Keynote Speaker, County of San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan (second from left) with 2019 OLPWS co-chairs Danitza (Ramirez) Villanueva ’98 (left) and Francesca C. Castagnola (second from right) with Head of School Dr. Lauren Lek (right).

Photo 2:

2020 OLPWS Co-Chairs (left to right) Danitza Villanueva ’98, Giving Back Magazine; Jen Carroll, Associate Director of Public Relations, Illumina; Carrie Sawyer, CEO and Founder, Diversity by Design; and Peter Dennehy, VP Customer and Market Research, Newland.