DUNDALK — For the first time, one 11th grade female student from each Baltimore County public high school will participate in a new initiative of the Towson University Women’s Leadership Collective, called the 2020 cohort of the Outstanding Young Women Leaders Program.

On Friday, Jan. 24, students took part in the first activity, a welcoming retreat, held on Towson University’s campus. Students participated in workshops from 2 – 5 p.m., followed by dinner on campus with Towson University President Dr. Kim Schatzel and attended the Towson Tigers’ women’s basketball game against Northeastern University.

During the welcoming retreat, students heard from Dr. Elizabeth Berquist, director of professional learning, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS); Kim Fabian, senior vice president, Junior Achievement of Central Maryland; Dr. Grasmick; Kristi Halford, founder/chief support officer, c3 Visionary Strategies; Pat Isaac, CEO, Capital Services; Dr. Keiwana Perryman, assistant director of leadership/student activities, Towson University; Diane Richardson, head coach, women’s basketball, Towson University; Sharon Markley Schreiber, COO, Alliance of Greater Baltimore; and Kim Williams, youth outreach coordinator, First Financial Federal Credit Union.

“Hopefully, after the program the students will get support,” Renee Spence, Dr. Nancy Grasmick, the Presidential Scholar and Women’s Leadership Ambassador at Towson University administrative assistant said. “We want to give them a leg-up on their college career.”

For six weeks, students will be engaged in academic and career activities. Each female student will be matched with a successful professional woman who will serve as coach and counselor during the program cycle. The professional woman reached out to the Towson University Women’s Leadership Collective and volunteered their services.

Each BCPS high school principal nominated up to three candidates who met academic, leadership, and community service requirements for the Outstanding Young Women Leaders Program. The Towson University Women’s Leadership Collective chose the final student from each school after reviewing their applications, recommendations, and transcripts and conducting interviews.

Students selected from the Essex and Dundalk area include: Adria Fialkowski from Sollers Point Technical High School , Chahat Kumari from Dundalk High, Bianca Skipper from Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, Sophia Wilson from Sparrows Point High, Lesly Guevara from Chesapeake High, Carmelli Leal from Eastern Technical High, Michelle Ramirez from Overlea High, Karalyn Varricchio from Perry Hall High and Caroline Woodring from Kenwood High.

Woodring is an outstanding student with a 4.0 GPA and a 4.50 QPA, according to Kenwood High School Principal Brian K. Powell.

“She is in the Allied Health Program at Sollers Point and she has excelled,” Powell explained. “Caroline has consistently challenged herself by taking upper level classes since 9th grade. She has gone above and beyond her Service Learning Requirement and has earned 91 volunteer hours and 40 of those hours were earned working in a homeless shelter. Caroline is an excellent student with a very bright future ahead of her. She tends to be very quiet and reserved so we feel that this would be an awesome opportunity for her to have a chance realize her own potential and to gain some valuable experiences through The Outstanding Young Woman Leaders Program. Caroline was selected amongst all of her peers to participate in The Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership (HOBY) last year as a 10th grader. She excels academically and has volunteered in her community. She is a well-rounded student and she shows great leadership potential.”

Guevara is an excellent scholar athlete that school officials are fortunate to have representing Chesapeake High in the Young Women Leaders Program, according to Chesapeake High School Principal Amy L. Wesloski.

“She currently ranks seventh in her class and is beyond exceptional,” Wesloski said. “Lesly is an optimist and likes to be challenged. She is an active member of our JROTC program, the captain of the varsity soccer team, member of the Spanish honor society, as well as a member of GEM (Girl’s Empowerment Mission). She does all this while also working at Middle River Pizzeria. Lesly strives to be the best and experience different things. She is excited for the opportunity to network and learn more about what Towson University has to offer. I believe that being paired with a mentor will provide Lesly with a great opportunity to be coached and counseled as she prepares for her life after high school.”

Guevara is in the JROTC program at Chesapeake High, operating as a supply officer.

“I witnessed her leadership skills when we had a formal visit from the regional director of the Marine Corp JROTC program. She was able to give a formal brief to the commanding officer,” she noted.

Ramirez is ranked no. 4 in her class and has engaged in a number of AP and dual-enrollment courses with success, according to Overlea High School Principal Monica C. Sample.

“She is able to balance her academics and participate in extracurricular activities along with service in her community,” Sample said.

Perry Hall High’s School Counselor, Caitlin Furman said she knows Karalyn Varricchio well and in numerous settings.

“She has always stood out to me,” Furman said. “The first thing you will notice about Kara is that she always has a smile on her face. She is wonderful to be around, and her positive energy spreads to everyone around her. In school, she is a friend that can always be counted on. She has encountered some difficult personal obstacles this year and has handled it all with such grace. Even while struggling herself, she continued to be an extraordinary friend. She speaks up when she sees others in need. She is reliable and is always willing to lend a hand to help those around her. In the classroom, Kara is always participating and sharing her thoughts and ideas. She helps other students when the teacher gives the opportunity for group collaboration.”

Through this initiative, Furman hopes to see Varricchio really find her voice.

“She is full of wonderful ideas and insights, and I really hope she uses this platform to share those thoughts with others. I also hope that Kara then uses her voice and this experience to help others in our school and community.”

According to Spence, officials at Towson University are engaging in female leadership programs because there are male programs already in place.

Towson University officials said they are appreciative of the support they receive from BCPS.