The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria parent organization celebrates 25 years

Young Women's Leadership School
Incoming sixth graders of The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria. (Photo courtesy of TYWLS)

The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria’s parent organization, the Student Leadership Network, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, as well as a long list of accomplishments. 

The Astoria public school, a branch of the Student Leadership Network, caters to students in sixth through 12th grade and aims to help students from underserved communities explore a STEM education. With a 94% college enrollment rate and top competitors in STEM extracurricular activities, The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria (TYWLSA) has a lot to be proud of.

Laura Gross, senior managing director of girls’ education, said that this school stands out due to its rigorous curriculum fused with strong social-emotional support. 

“The incredible administrators leading these schools have access to a network of like-minded educators who hold the same values and the same goals, creating a support system not just for the students, but also for the principals helping them build their future,” Gross said. 

Gross mentioned that TYWLSA students are often the first in their families to attend college. Currently, around 575 students are enrolled at TYWLSA, most from Astoria and Jackson Heights. 

“Many young people in the communities we serve have not had access to resources regarding the college application process, how to apply for financial aid and other tools that make a huge difference when considering options for their academic future,” Gross said. 

Each student at TYWLSA gets to sit down with a counselor to map out their future, whether that includes a four-year college, two-year associates program, trade school or a full-time job. 

“Every student is set up for success, whatever that means to them,” Gross said. 

Mia Soret, a resident of the Jackson Heights area and a student at TYWLSA, believes that her school has helped her feel empowered and ready to enter a male-dominated field.

“Oftentimes even in my greatest struggles in class or after school activities, I had staff and students that would help to be the best version of myself,” Soret said. “Especially in this day and age, with the stress of being a teenager and in the middle of a pandemic, having support and people who can make you laugh and empower you is extremely significant and beneficial.”

Soret hopes to achieve financial stability when she graduates, finding a career that is an extension of her passion for technology and business. 

“For my future, I hope that wherever I am, whatever I do, I would like to be happy and content, to live somewhat stress-free,” Soret said. “I want to be at a job where every day I wake up excited to be there and excited to continue learning.”

Soret has been able to explore her STEM interests through robotics, software programming, coding and more at TYWLSA. She even participated in a program that helps bring technology to underrepresented schools around the world; she had the opportunity to travel to Mendoza, Argentina and taught elementary school students robotics.

Another student, Nora Anzer from Astoria, said that women’s empowerment has been instilled in her and her peers since sixth grade. 

“I’ve always felt motivated by teachers and staff to take on any opportunity that’s given to me,” Anzer said. “For instance, my team and I created our own jewelry line and sold it to staff and students at our school. It’s more important now than ever since it may seem daunting to enter a male-dominated field like business but with the support of TYWLSA I feel like that’s not an obstacle for me.”

TYWLSA is one of five New York City schools affiliated with the Student Leadership Network. TYWLSA and its partner schools utilize a “Whole Girl Education” framework based on research-based practices such as focusing on student voice and attention to rituals to achieve academic preparedness and leadership.

Admission to TYWLSA is based on a lottery system, open to girls and gender-expansive students free of cost. This fall, the Student Leadership Network is expanding its footprint by adding two new single-gender schools in Staten Island and Las Vegas. 

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