New York, May 19, 2016 – Celebrating the collective power of women as volunteers, members of Junior Leagues from four countries gathered in Atlanta for The Association of Junior Leagues International’s 94th Annual Conference, May 12-14, 2016. The conference also marked the 115th anniversary of the founding of The Junior League by social activism pioneer Mary Harriman.
The theme for this year’s conference was ALL IN! – AJLI’s way of saying that the most powerful community impact strategy for any Junior League is leveraging all of its assets – including the commitment, knowledge and expertise of its members – to achieve a lasting and positive impact on society.
The conference’s keynote speaker was Carlotta Walls LaNier, the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who, in a major breakthrough for civil rights, were the first black students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. In 1999, Ms. LaNier and the other members of the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal – one of the nation’s highest civilian honors – by President Bill Clinton.
Because just about every Junior League is involved in working with low-income families in one form or another, a well-attended pre-conference event was a community action poverty simulation presented by Michael J. Rich, Professor of Political Science at Emory University. In the simulation, participants were “placed” into typical low-income families and faced with the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter for their families on a limited budget while interacting with a wide range of agencies, organizations and services, such as human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others. The experience focused participants on how they can effect change by working low-income families as well as policymakers and community leaders to effect change.
Education is proven to be the brightest hope for breaking the cycle of multi-generational poverty, and children’s education and literacy are key focus areas for many Leagues. In a session entitled Education and Its Power to Unlock the Potential of Our Communities, a distinguished panel examined the power of education in alleviating generational poverty; the relationship between children’s literacy and parents’ and adult caregivers’ empowerment; and how education policy and action can drive economic development. Moderator Vicki Clark, founder of Building the Capacity of Organizations (and trainer/consultant to several Junior Leagues), was joined by panelists Stephanie Blank, Board Chair of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, and Kate Boyer, Deputy Director of Literacy Action, Atlanta.
For the second year, AJLI presented its Next Chapter program, which brings together highly accomplished women who have remained active in their Junior Leagues as sustaining members. More than 90 members participated in the program, including many from Georgia Leagues. Program ambassadors included sustainers Cynthia Clanton, Director of Georgia’s Administrative Office of the Courts; Alicia Philipp, President of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta; Ann Cramer, senior consultant with Coxe Curry & Associates; and Bobbi Cleveland, Executive Director of the Tull Foundation, among others.
League members also heard from two of AJLI’s major corporate partners, Lincoln Motor Company and Colgate-Palmolive. The Lincoln partnership offers Junior Leagues the opportunity to fund-raise by participating in the car manufacturer’s National Test Drive Tour initiative and working with Lincoln’s national dealers network. Through the Colgate-Palmolive Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® program, Junior Leagues can help provide free dental screenings to children in their communities while also educating their families on how oral health affects the body and diet affects dental care.
“The collective power of women as volunteers is demonstrated every day by our members in nearly 300 communities in the U.S., Canada, the UK and Mexico,” said AJLI President Ellen Rose, a member of the Junior League of the City of New York. “The reason that The Junior League Movement has been so successful over the years – across so much change in our society and in our social mores – is its deep commitment to women’s leadership and training. What the 94th Annual Conference demonstrates is there is a hunger for that leadership today that rivals even levels of decades past.”
About The Association of Junior Leagues International
Founded in 1901 by New Yorker and social activism pioneer, Mary Harriman, the Junior Leagues are charitable nonprofit organizations of women, developed as civic leaders, creating demonstrable community impact.
Today, The Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) is comprised of more than 150,000 women in 291 Junior Leagues throughout Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States. Together, they constitute one of the largest, most effective volunteer organizations in the world.
Tracy Van Buskirk
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