The University of Central Florida’s Young Women Leaders Program has received the 2011 Donna Allen Award for Feminist Advocacy.

The Donna Allen Award recognizes women or groups who demonstrate feminist advocacy through media activism by promoting the rights and freedoms of women and minorities across the world.  Donna Allen founded the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C.

The Commission on the Status of Women, part of the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, will present the award at the association convention in St. Louis in August.

“So many amazing women have worked so hard in building and expanding this program,” said Maria Roman, coordinator for the Young Women Leaders Program, who will accept the award.

The Young Women Leaders Program is a UCF Women’s Studies initiative where female UCF students volunteer as big sisters, mentoring 80 seventh-grade girls in Seminole County schools each year.

In their role as big sisters, the UCF students build relationships with the middle school girls and talk with them about topics including pressure from family, friends and school, societal influences, building self-esteem and conflict resolution.  Big sisters meet with their little sisters every other Wednesday during a school aftercare program where they discuss the topic of the day and then participate in a fun group activity.

The UCF students and their mentees also participate in social and community service events twice monthly to develop stronger bonds and instill in the girls the importance of giving back to their community.

Each semester, the program hosts a “UCF Day” when little sisters get to tour UCF’s main campus and engage in leadership and self-esteem building activities.

“Some of our middle school students feel like going to college is somewhat of an unrealistic goal, so it is a great feeling knowing that we get to plant that first seed of attending college in their minds,” Roman said.  “All of the middle school girls end up falling in love with UCF as soon as they step foot onto the campus.”

Those interested in volunteering with the Young Women Leaders Program can sign up to be big sisters for the fall and spring semesters. Applications are due in August for the fall and January for the spring.

Click here to apply.