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Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) student Jonni Nigro recently attended the National Education for Women’s (N.E.W) Leadership program at the Carl Albert Center on the University of Oklahoma (OU) campus. Nigro, a sophomore from Miami, was selected through a competitive application process and spent a five-day session engaging in workshops, collaborative projects, and networking. “I learned so much in such a short amount of time,” said Nigro. “Not only did we learn about the political process, we also enhanced our leadership skills and became more familiar with diversity. I met several peers and everyone had different backgrounds, yet we were all there for the same purpose. I had the opportunity to meet several female leaders who encouraged me in so many different ways.”

According to the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics, women make up only twenty percent of the United States Legislature and Oklahoma ranks in the bottom ten states for percentage of women in state legislatures. In order to encourage undergraduate women to get involved in the policymaking process, the award-winning N.E.W Leadership program was established in Oklahoma as part of a national network. “During the week, we conducted a campaign simulation where we developed a campaign strategy,” added Nigro. “We had to figure out a budget, coordinate events, draft messages and speeches, advertise, finance, and many other tasks. We also participated in multiple skill-building workshops. We took an exciting trip to the State Capitol, where we were able to listen to many women who work in government speak, see behind the scene at the Capitol, and we even went to the Judicial Center which we heard from female Justices and Judges.”

Only about 35 women are selected for the annual institute and Nigro joined the over 500 women from 40 college and universities, and eight tribal nations to become graduates of the program. “I would recommend any female to apply and participate in the N.E.W. program if they want a week to feel empowered and consistently encouraged by other women,” concluded Nigro. “You will leave the program as a stronger, more driven woman and have close connections with other females in our area.” To find out more information about the N.E.W. Leadership program, contact Dr. Seonae or Dr. Jeff Birdsong at sbirdsong@neo.edu or jbirdsong@neo.edu. (Nigro is pictured with the other attendees and organizers on the far right of the bottom row.)

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