Return to Headlines

Girls to Women provides access to leadership development opportunities

The world may know her as Tina Gilliand, but her students affectionately call her “Mama G.” Gilliand is helping her students see their greatest potential through her role with Girls to Women at Withrow University High School.

“My biggest goal is to meet them where they are and build from there,” Gilliand said. 

CPS’ Girls to Women Leadership Collaborative is designed to provide equitable access to leadership development opportunities for female students that ultimately transform school cultures for the better.

“I just want them to be as successful as possible and have the strength of character to push themselves forward to advocate for themselves,” Gilliand said. “At the end of the day, they’re the one person that can make them successful. There’s a whole world out there that you can change and make a difference in if you’re willing to take that first step. I want them to understand that it’s a lot of work, but it’s going to be worth it.”

Deanna Moore, Girls to Women Coordinator at Shroder High School, hopes Girls to Women will empower more girls to harness the power of their own voice. 

“The girls in Girls to Women get a better understanding of self-esteem, self-worth and feeling like they are equal to the guys,” Moore said. “It’s not that they didn’t have it, but now they have the ability to shine and know that, ‘I have a voice and I can be a leader.’”

Moore is also there to help the girls work through their emotions.

“Part of our foundation is, ‘hurt people, hurt people,’” Moore said. “We’re trying to get the girls to understand that if you’re hurt or going through something and don’t get help, then you’re going to keep doing that to somebody else, whether intentional or not.”

The young women are taught to uplift and support their peers.

Woodward Career Technical High School’s Tonya Shaw is credited with creating BeYOUtiful Bulldogs, alongside school counselor Brianca Gay. The program merged into Girls to Women.

“We had a meeting and one of our girls was just having a tough day and before we could even get the meeting started, the girls surrounded her and poured into her,” Shaw said. “It was beautiful to watch because they all stopped what they were doing to encourage her. It was very moving.”