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Jamie-Rose Edwards never set out to be a leader. But following a stint with AmeriCorps and, later, the birth of her daughter in 2010 she secured a grant to create a seven-month leadership program, pairing young women from immigrant and low-income homes with adult mentors of different backgrounds. Today, that program has grown 500 percent and encompasses a resilient community of over 500 diverse and talented women and girls in the greater Seattle area.

Edwards describes herself as the conduit through which Young Women Empowered, or Y-WE, has taken flight, answering a call to support women’s development and help them become active community members through creative workshops, educational trips, and leadership training. And the community gave back. When Y-WE’s initial run concluded, the girls flat-out refused to let the program end, putting on a fundraising dinner that made $10,000.

For recent alum Adiza, Y-WE offered role models beyond the women she saw on TV. “The person-to-person connections that I had with my mentors in the program and still maintain to this day are so important in my life,” explains Adiza, now a student at Pomona College who attributes her involvement in social issues, the arts, and women’s studies to the work of Edwards and her team.

“A lot of people don’t see the power and potential of youth and young women in general,” says Edwards. “They’re so courageous, they’re so bold. When you believe in them, they soar.”

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