By Madina Toure
Three Queens girls are among five graduates of the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, founded by the daughter of the late congresswoman to empower young women and strengthen their leadership skills.
The five girls will be honored at BALI’s 10th anniversary event April 12 at the Princeton Club at 15 W. 43rd St. in Manhattan.
Liz Abzug, daughter of late former U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug, founded the not-for-profit organization in 2005 to mentor and inspire teens and young women.
The organization focuses on high-achieving disadvantaged students in underserved and Title 1 public schools, or schools that receive additional funds because they have a large number of students from low-income families. They also serve students who have had more access to resources and attend some of the most competitive city public and private schools.
“They carry forth in the work we see them doing in the BALI training and go back to their schools and communities and develop clubs or social action initiatives that we think merit that recognition,” Abzug said.
The organization also trains students from community, public and private colleges throughout the country, particularly in the tri-state area.
Bella Abzug was a prominent feminist and the first Jewish congresswoman elected to the House in 1971, serving the Upper West Side until 1977.
The daughter of Russian immigrants, she grew up in the Bronx, attend Hunter College and Columbia University, and worked as a lawyer for 25 years, focusing on labor and tenants’ rights, civil rights and liberties cases. She was known for her wide-brimmed hats.
In 1971, she founded the National Women’s Political Caucus with women’s rights activists Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.
Monica Singh, 17, a senior at Queens High School for Science and a BALI intern, will receive the Emerging Young Woman Leader Award. She is organizing a program at BALI to help high school girls transition to college.
Singh said she has learned and grown so much since joining the institute and she appreciated meeting girls from different walks of life.
“It was so nice for me to be part of that type of environment,” she said.
Cassandra Alexandre, a graduate of Bayside HS who attends SUNY Oneonta University, will receive the Excellence in Mentorship and Advocacy Award.
She has been a member of the BALI Alumnae Association since she participated in the summer program in 2013 and serves as a mentor for young BALI girls.
Fawzia Rahman, a senior at Thomas Edison HS and a first-generation Bengali immigrant, is receiving the Reed Scholar and Activist Award. Her creative writing from her BALI training was presented at the 2015 International Day of the Girl Summit at the United Nations.
The other award recipients are Liel Green, a senior at Teaneck HS in New Jersey who held discussions about gender and feminism at BALI, and Noam Green, also a senior at Teaneck, who graduated from BALI’s Summer Leadership and Debate Training Program and had a blog residency with the Jewish Women’s Archive.
Marcus Vinicius Ribeiro, head of legal and governmental affairs in the Americas for PRISA, a Spanish and Portuguese language education and media company, and Judy Collins, a Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter, will also be honored at the event.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour