Hello, my name is Ashley Wong, a sophomore at Hunter College. I am in two honors programs and I am majoring in political science, minoring in Legal Studies and concentrating in philosophy.
This summer, I was one of 48 beautiful and supportive girls in the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute’s FREE 11-Day Summer Leadership and Debate Training, where we all learned, talked, cried, questioned and grew together. It was one of the most productive summers I had in my life and I’m sure years from now it will still be.
BALI brings together motivated high achieving girls from high schools and colleges, who have dedication and passion for life, to lead and who want to achieve greatsuccess. By uniting us and giving us the tools to succeed—BALI has greatly changed our perspective.
From the public speaking training sessions from Liz Abzug (founder of BALI in memory of her mother, politician and activist, Bella Abzug), to the inspirational speech from Nily Rozic, the youngest female to take the title of Assemblywoman, to the writing coaches who improved our writing skills, to cutting out images to create our vision boards with BALI wellness and empowerment trainer, Vanessa Codorniu, and to daily intensive debate training by the New York City Urban Debate League, I feel much more knowledgeable about critical contemporary issues and the world around me.
Coming out of this program, I have made many friends who are just like me—passionate, intelligent, and shy at first—but we all learned the qualities of being a leader.
One moment stands out to me in particular. We cried together after watching the documentary, Girl Rising, which featured young girls around the world each telling their personal story of struggle. It pained all of us. Some of us could relate to their problems because of their cultural background. Some of us were disgusted by these gender inequalities that should have been eradicated years ago. The BALI girls vowed to take action—to unite women and stand up for women—for us, for other females, and for generations to come!
At BALI, we live and learn everyday as if we are celebrating the International Day of the Girl. We promise to cherish ourselves, respect others and value education. Education is the key to success and education is the bridge to solutions to problems in the world.
Here is a quick walk through my wonderful journey at BALI:
Overall, I feel at BALI we FUSE, support each other and other young women and girls to lead the future!
BALI is for Feminism:
-We discuss feminist issues prevalent in the past and today
– We appreciate the great fight Bella Abzug has put up for women’s rights
-We speak with motivated youngsters on how to promote feminism starting with them
BALI girls energized after enjoying an amazing drumming performance by Batala NYC, All Woman’s Afro-Brazilian Performance Group.
Director of Production, BET Networks Creative Services, Kai A. Brown, after speaking about her struggle as a minority woman with BALI Interns.
BALI is for Unity:
-BALI girls come out of the program with life-long friendships and bonds
-BALI girls listen to one another’s dreams and as a team of young, motivated leaders, inspire one another to be successful
The college debate team after training with the NYC Urban Debate League! (I am the fourth one from the left.) We had just debated on the resolution that unilateral military force by the U.S. is justified to prevent nuclear proliferation.
BALI is for Support:
-Accomplished guest speakers give insight into their career, their struggles (as women), and give advice to the next generation of female leaders
The founder of BALI, Liz Abzug, speaks about public speaking techniques.
Shown here are two of my fellow BALI trainees working on their debate preparations.
BALI is for Education:
-We stress the importance of education and improving ourselves
-Education is the bridge to solutions
-We sharpen writing skills of young women by providing them with writing coaches
-Young women have the opportunity to train with the New York City Urban Debate League
Erica Forman, Chairwoman of the BALI Board of Directors and one of the writing coaches, gives advice to a BALI trainee on how to improve her essay.
A proud BALI trainee shows off her Vision Board at a workshop from a guest speaker who allowed each girl to express her dreams and ideas creatively.
One of my best friends and BALI intern Zahra shown here, singing an inspiring song during final presentations.
United we stand; divided we fall!
The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute (BALI) utilizes the signature leadership skills of the late New York Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (1920-1998) to mentor and train high school and college age women and help develop the confidence and skills they need to be effective, dynamic and visionary leaders as well as active and creative participants in civic, political, corporate and community life. BALI is a program that fosters gender equality, education, love, and support.
To Learn More about BALI: check out these great videos!
BALI Girls in Action